August 12, 2008 Farewell to Isfjord Radio and the Linne Valley
Our boatmen arrived the night before and joined us for dinner and that's when we learned that the seas were going to be rough heading back to Longyearbyen. Since taking a boat is the only method of transportation back to Longyearbyen this time of year, we are extremely dependent on the weather and the effects of the weather on the bodies of water. We were lucky to be getting out today since the weather for the next few days didn't look promising for boat transportation. We packed all our personal belongings in plastic bags before putting them in our duffels in order to protect them from getting wet during the boat ride.
Our departure was scheduled for 7AM which meant the boats were "leaving" at 7AM, and our belongings needed to be on board by 6:30AM. Fortunately we brought most of the containers to the dock the night before, and therefore the only items left in the buildings were our personal supplies. Eva was up at 6AM and had coffee and Jackie's delicious almond cookies ready for us to munch on as a quick breakfast snack. Al and Jesse were nowhere to be found and we were beginning to think they were going to stay at Isfjord Radio a day or two longer to do some more ice coring. They had arrived the night before after everyone had gone to sleep, leaving us unsure of their plans to stay at Isfjord Radio or return with us to Longyearbyen. By 6:45AM the Svalbard REU team was at the dock acting like a machine hauling all the gear onto the boats, and by 7:15AM (oops a tad late!) our boat was ready to go and at this point we knew Al and Jesse would remain behind to continue coring at places around the Linne Valley. Mike and Antoine left at 7AM with Haakon on a separate boat along with a number of supply lockers so that they start organizing the logistics back to UNIS. Everyone with sediment cores and other samples were nervous about transporting their thesis data on the boat over rough seas, but we had them bound together and held tightly in our arms hopefully securing them enough for the ride. We bid a fond farewell to everyone at Isfjord Radio and thanked them profusely for making us feel at home at the station.
This time when we put on our drysuits we were a little more serious about how they would keep us warm and dry for the ride through the fjord "highway" back to Longearbyen. It was down Isfjord for about an hour, and then we made a right down Adventfjord to the dock at Longyearbyen. To say the hour and a half ride back was wet gives only half the picture. To give you a better idea of our ride, picture in your mind the wildest amusement park ride you've ever been on and imagine what it would be like to stay on it for 1.5 hours in the rain! Over the waves, through the spray of salt water we stayed huddled in our dry suits to keep warm. When we arrived at the dock in Longyearbyen we hustled to get all our gear off the boats, get out of our dry suits, and find some warmer clothes. Within a half hour we were at the UNIS loading dock to continue the juggling process of gear, supplies, and equipment. Our cores and samples have made it through one step of the trip back home, but questions remain about getting them the rest of the way home. We'll keep you posted! The rest of the day was left for the students to relax and acclimate to their new surroundings. Mike and I used the day to get caught up with some paperwork and to relish in a little downtime.
Later in the day we received an email from Al requesting a few items be shipped back to Isfjord Radio and in his note he mentioned seeing 2 polar bears on the beach about 30 minutes after we left! This sighting kept Al and Jesse sequestered at the field station for the entire day, thus preventing them from taking advantage of the extra time to gather additional cores. The trials and tribulations of field work continues!
Question of the day: What would be the first thing you would do once you got back from being in the field for 4 weeks?