157 degrees of latitude in 63 days

So I’m about to leave again for another session of fieldwork and I haven’t even finished posting the updates from the last one. Embarrassing.

Anyway, on Monday I’ll be leaving for Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, an archipelago and territory of Norway at around 78 degrees North. I’m assisting my colleague Bonnie with some measurements of the optical properties of sea ice in the fjords near there–somewhat similar stuff to what I was doing in Antarctica, although not for the same project (the sea ice we’ll be dealing with there is much warmer and more full of algae than anything we’d expect to find on Snowball Earth, at least based on current models.)

I’m pretty excited about this! The Arctic is very different to the Antarctic, in a lot of ways, and despite growing up in Alaska this will be the first time I’ve been north of the Arctic Circle. While the Antarctic is ice-covered land surrounded by water, the Arctic is ice-covered water surrounded by land, so it’s much less isolated. Land ice and sea ice are very different physically, as well, with land-based glacier ice being quite stiff and slow and clean and orderly compared to chaotic, ridged, constantly-shifting, salty, life-harboring sea ice.
The Antarctic has no land-based predators larger than a tiny worm, whereas in the Arctic we’ll have to keep an eye out for polar bears, a species that has few compunctions about eating humans if given the chance. (I’m told that if we’re on our guard and prepared, we’ve little to worry about.)

I’ll post again when I get there.


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