We had a royal visit in our laboratory! On November the 5th, a memorial service was held in Ny-Ålesund for the 21 miners who were killed in a severe accident in the year 1962. At that time, Ny-Ålesund was a coal mining area, where coal was retrieved from the mines under high risks for their workers. The tragic accident had strong political consequences and resulted in an immediate stop of all mining activities in the settlement. The community of Ny-Ålesund, veterans, politicians and King Harald commemorated the victims of this tragedy with a wreath ceremony at the historical monument and unfortunately, we missed this ceremony because of our work in the lab. But the next day, the King had the opportunity to see the “modern” life in Ny-Ålesund and he visited the Marine Laboratory. This gave us the opportunity to present our project and show our fishes in the holding tanks.//
The everyday life in Ny-Ålesund has, however, become more silent during the last months. The length of the daylight decreased quite fast (by about 20 minutes each day) since the end of September. Somehow, it also felt like the amount of inhabitants in Ny-Ålesund decreased simultaneously with the decreasing light. We are about 30 inhabitants in the town now, whereas only few of them are scientists. Most of the inhabitants are employed by KingsBay in order to keep the town running during the winter month. We are the only ones working in the Marine Lab right now and from next week it will be only me because Jordan will leave to Tromsø in order to help with the experiments in Kårvika. It might get a bit lonely from time to time but fortunately I can entertain myself by talking to the fishes while feeding them, cleaning their tanks, preparing their food and taking samples.
About a week ago, we started our experiment after a period of 6 weeks for the acclimation. Now the 240 fishes are disturbed into 5 groups that retrieve different food mixtures and thereby different treatments until the beginning of December. The 1 week of our experiment has already past and I am really happy to realize that our preparations from the last weeks (preparing food portions, labeling vials etc.) yield into success. That is a good feeling and increases the motivation during long hours of work in the laboratory.
I have been living in Northern Norway for about 3 years and I am used to the dark months during the winter. It is also not new for me to work in the Arctic but nevertheless I asked myself, when I left Tromsø in September, how it will be to live in Ny-Ålesund for 3 month in autumn/winter, …in Svalbard the darkness comes faster than in Tromsø, they have harsh weather with strong winds and snow… And after being here for 2 month, I can say: it is fantastic!!!
All this beautiful sunsets and sunrises during the autumn, which gives you the feeling that the mountain tops are glowing and you just have to take so many pictures. And the first snow came in the beginning of October, which was special for me because I have never been able to go ski on my birthday before…and it was the first time that I got a “fish cake” to my birthday (it was a chocolate cake with candy fishes in the top, no worries). Next to the work in the lab, we have been on trips around Ny-Ålesund and enjoyed the beautiful Arctic nature. Equipped with riffle, safety tools, warm cloth and a polar dog I have been climbing mountains, hiking to cabins and walking on glaciers. Despite the short time with light during the days, there are plenty of possibilities for trips. You just have to be a bit faster during your hike or kayak trip. And although it was a bit colder to paddle a kayak in October, we got rewarded with a wonderful view on the mountains around Kongsfjorden, which were illuminated by a wonderful mixture of yellow, red, orange colors of the disappearing sun. After crossing the fjord, it didn`t take long to get the feeling in the body again because we arrived in the warm cabin “Gorilla”, where we spent the rest of the day with good food and nice company.
These are the news from Ny-Ålesund and we send greeting from the Arctic as well as we wish the group in Kårvika good luck with their experiments this week!
Ireen Vieweg, Ny-Ålesund 8th of November 2012