I have previously worked in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys, at about 79 degrees south. I have finally made it along with a team of colleagues to Svalbard, which is 79 degrees north! This project’s fieldwork has been delayed a year and we are excited to be here.
Some of the landscape feels very familiar from my time in Antarctica, like the bare, rocky mountains with glaciers cascading down through the passes. But there are some key differences! Svalbard is closer to more temperate land masses, only a two hour flight from mainland Norway. It is warmer, and has tundra with grasses and flowering plants growing.
And of course, rather than firearms being banned as they are in Antarctica, they are required in Svalbard for self defense in case of hungry polar bears!