"You're going where?" has been the most common response from friends, family, students, and colleagues after they've inquired into and heard my summer plans. Followed usually by "cool," "interesting," or my favorite "why the heck would you want to go there" whilst they scratch their heads.
This being my first official journal, I'd like to welcome everyone to the beginning of an arctic adventure to Svalbard, an arctic archipelago north of Norway and just east of Greenland. I hope that you follow along and feel free to ask questions along the way using the ask the team feature on this expedition's homepage. To my students, it would especially warm my heart in such a cold place to hear from you.
As a bit of background information coming into this trip, I will be joining Mike Retelle (Bates Geology Professor), Steve Roof (Hampshire Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences), and a group of rising seniors participating in a REU project. The plan is to work out of Longyearbyen on the bookends of the trip and Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linne for the majority of the field season. Longyearbyen being the northernmost town proper, the midnight sun will be out in full force which doesn't sound half bad compared to drenched state of Western Maine. I am especially excited for this trip for a number of reasons. The most obvious being that spending time on glaciers, lakes, and rivers in the name of science gets me seriously amped as my students can attest. Another is that I will be rejoining my former college advisor and good friend Mike in the field. Mike's enthusiasm and intensity in the field are unparalleled and all of the REU students are in a for a serious treat (or a long 6 weeks of Mike and I cracking up over bad jokes or fishing stories and then instantly transforming to science-bots with blazing purpose). For the full details to start, please see the excellent descriptions put together by Mike Retelle, Al Werner, Steve Roof, and the awesome team from PolarTREC and Arcus on the expedition team.
Preparation for such a trip has manifested itself in a few different distinct areas. One must first think about what is going to be necessary to survive. The high arctic is an area that requires cold weather gear, a full rain suit, and an extremely healthy fear of Polar Bears. Another area of preparation has been learning the journaling format and how to archive pictures for all of you to enjoy and show your friends as a means to spark intense scientific dialogue. That being said, if this first try is a bit shaky please bear with me. Finally, the preparation that has oddly enough gotten me the most excited has been delving into the primary literature on the climate and geologic history of Svalbard and the arctic. Reading (and re-reading) articles by such folks as Ray Bradley, Giff Miller, Richard Alley, and Julie Brigham-Grette to name a few has felt like getting to know old friends again and I guess must be a testament to my love of the paleoclimate and glaciological sciences (or maybe just an admission of a dorky science teacher). Nevertheless, this entire process has been a blast…
In closing, thanks again for reading and you will be hearing more from me after our departure on July 5. I've included a picture of my work station to show how things get started for an adventure like this complete with Google Earth centered on Svalbard, highly marked-up works of Paleoclimate literature, the PolarTREC's guide to the galaxy, 27 8x10 glossy pictures with circles and arrows, and my favorite Polar Bear postcard as a reminder to stay focused. See you in the north!