Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Tuesday morning I headed up to the observatory to check and make sure it was running fine and to see if the snow had started to melt at all. On the last trip up we had to big through a lot of snow just to get into KHO,  and I was hoping for not as much shoveling again. So after driving out along the river that runs past Longyearbyen I drove up the mountain where mine number seven is located.
This is the view of the mountain as I drove up too it, and the whole mountain is covered in snow and only looks black from the coal dust that gets blow around. As I drove up the switch backing road to the top I was glad I didn't meet a coal truck. Many years back they had replaced their bucket system of transporting the coal with dump trucks and I was hoping I didn't meet one coming down. At the top I parked the truck and walked into a dream garage. With this garage you are truly a go anywhere kind of guy.
In the front is obviously the snowmobile that I would be taking up to KHO, and then behind it is the Swedish "bandvagn" that we had used last time. I only wish I knew how to drive the Swedish tank because that thing is awesome. So in order to go up to KHO I had to suit up into my UNIS work suit.

 I then drove the snowmobile up to KHO and found it just as buried as it was before. First you should look back when I first went up there and posted a picture of the KHO with barely any snow on the ground. This is what it looked like now.
This is a picture facing the front as the same in the other picture. At the left side of the building the snow drift is up to the roof and it is almost half way up the window as seen in the middle of the building. Then the front door of the building, which would be located on the other side of the building on the left side as pictured above, looks like this.
It is buried half way up the door, and the garage next to it is almost completely covered. Finally the back door which is where we got in last time was accessible.
There was little shoveling to do this second time but upon our first arrival we had our work cut out for us as seen by the snowbank piled up on the left side. This side is slightly more blocked by the wind so it was not as bad. Then once I enter through the door I enter the long hallway off of which all the instrument rooms are.
There are currently 21 different imagers or cameras located down this hallway, each of which have their own room. Then at the end of the hallway is a control room, a living room and the garage. This was the view out of the window that had the snow built in front of it.
After checking out everything in KHO and making sure no alarms were going off and everything was fine I headed outside to get some pictures. I truly had an amazing view from up on the mountain.

This looks down valley back towards Longyearbyen, and then the view to my left.

There stand more whitewashed mountains, and finally the view to my right.

Yup more absolutely beautiful and stunning mountains. I think this can be documented as the moment where my love with the Arctic was truly solidified. Then on my way down I had to get a closer look at the satellites.

These satellites are called SvalSat and are part of the Kongsberg Satellite Services, which is a Norwegian run enterprise used for providing ground stations and earth observation services for polar orbiting satellites. This is one of there three different locations. They make for quiet the background piece. Finally I headed back parked the snowmobile and drove back down to UNIS. Although on the way back I must have stopped at least 10 times to pull over and take a picture, but I simply could not help it. This was the view as I was coming down off of the mountain.

Then the final picture I will leave you with from this trip is of a dog kennel that I had not noticed located right outside of town. This is clearly the best place to raise sled dogs and I could only wish that I got to see a team of them out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

With the start of my new week came more blue sky's and great adventures. On Monday it was a holiday here which came as a surprise to me because I wouldn't think that they joined the US in our Memorial Day Celebration. After a little research I found out that it was the celebration Forste pinsedagwhich in english is Pentecost. This Forste pinsedagis a celebration of commemorates the descent of the holy spirit upon the 12 apostles and due to the fact that I am not Christian I had no idea of its existence. This then resulted in a work for me where I simply got UNIS all to myself. Although Edvard did insist on coming in to help, so I let him takes notes for me while I was working in the lab.

Today I got the chance to take part in a Svalbard safety course put on by people who work at UNIS. In the morning we went through a slide show discussing the different dangers on Svalbard and how you can get into trouble outdoors during the summer. Of course everyone wanted to hear all about the polar bears, there were several student who shared experiences about seeing or having to scare off polar bears. It is a very interesting thing to learn about because they are portrayed in such different ways to the general public then they are when you are here. I somehow doubt that Coco Cola shows commercials with cuddly polar bears to the public up here. They are considered a serious danger and are treated that way. For the second part of the training we had to learn how to use a .30-06 large game rifle. They drove us out of town and up into the mountains a little way to a shooting range settled in the middle of a valley. After going though a lengthy and comprehensive training of how to use the rifle we set up some targets and had got some practice shots in. This was probably the best part of the day, and luckily having grown up in VT I'd had some practice before.  As I was putting one of the targets back in the shed at the end I saw another stack of targets, they all had a large polar bear on them. It seemed funny to me that you would never see that back in the States and that anyone using that target would seem cruel to a bystander. I guess that simply goes with the territory and it was good to see how serious they took the threat. It was also good to see how many steps and strategies they had in place and taught us for scaring off the polar bear.

Now with this training complete I will be able to venture out to the KHO when the sun come up tomorrow.
This time I will not forget my camera and I will be able to show you the observatory that I am doing this work for and the beautiful view from 500 meters up.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

With my first weekend in Svalbard came a lot more time to explore the town and the valley of Longyearbyen. The first thing I would like to share is the popular sign and slogan of the town.
This is a local bar located in the center of town, the slogan reads Longyearbyen 78 degrees North which is a slogan that is seen throughout the town and rightly so. Next I took a walk farther up into the valley and on my way I went past an old mining establishment perched on the side of the mountain.
There are multiple of these abandoned sights located on the sides of the mountains. Back when these were in operation they also had a bucket system that would carry the coal from the mines down the mountains. The towers that carried these buckets can be seen across the valley and make for quite the rustic scenery.

Then a little further up I had another encounter with the wildlife of Svalbard, I believe this is a type of fox although I could not get close enough for a good look before he took off.

Then as I began to walk back it started to snow and although this made it very cloudy, there is nothing quiet like a good snow storm in the summer. I'm sure for up here this would barely even considered a storm, and after being up here during the summer it certainly makes you want to see what it is like in the winter.
I also wanted to share a common sight from here in Longyearbyen, this picture helps to describe how much the people here love snowmobiling. This is just but one of the probably 10 or more snowmobile "parking lots".

As I was walking back home I realized I have yet to share where I am working and living, so here it is.
Although it is very cloudy out from the snow, you can see here UNIS (The University Centre in Svalbard), which is where I have my office and work during the day. I should be going back up to the observatory this week and due to the fact that I will remember my camera I will be able to share some pictures of KHO. Then this next picture is of the UNIS guest house where I get to stay, the building is essentially directly behind me when I was taking the above picture of UNIS.
Finally the sun came out today and so I will leave you with pictures from the beautiful day that we are having here today in Longyearbyen.

-This Picture is looking down the valley towards the town.

-This picture is from the same location as the one where I try to show the "light" snow storm, but simply now with a beautiful blue sky.

Friday, May 25, 2012

So even though the past two days have meant working inside a lot I still get to look out my office window and see this;
After work I took a walk through town and the clouds went away long enough to see some bright blue sky. Also I found a row of houses that I had seen in numerous pictures of Longyearbyen and  the reason why is very obvious.

In fact most of the houses and buildings in Longyearbyen are brightly colored and very few are simply white. Next I took a walk to the end of the valley which is where the student housing for UNIS is located. As the road ended in Nybyen, which is where the student housing is, the sun attempted to come out from behind the clouds and produced a very beautiful scene.
Then as I was walking back into town I saw a sign that is very common here in Longyearbyen and all of Svalbard I'm sure;
Almost every family here has more snowmobiles than they do cars. Next to the average house you may see a car or two, but you generally see at least 3 or 4 snowmobiles. My boss for example has one car but then has 4 snowmobiles, because for most of the year it is an easier mode of transportation. Also simply taking trips up into the mountains on your snowmobile is very popular. Finally here is a nice shot that I got of the main section of the town of Longyearbyen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I didnt think the days could get better but somehow they do. Unfortunately this post will have limited pictures because I forgot my camera in town when we left but have no fear I will make the trip to the observatory again such that I can get up some pictures of it all.
 Today I took a trip up to the observatory for which all the work I am doing is for. Due to the fact that it is about 500 meters higher up than the town it is still in the dead of winter up there. One side of the building was almost completely burried. We were able to drive up a road for a mile or two to get close although to actually reach the Observatory we had to use what they called a Bandvagn and I took a picture from the KHO website so everyone can see how awesome it is;
It is essentially a Swedish made tank, and it is amazing. It was first used in the military and since then has expanded and become popular with arctic researchers. Once I am back in the US I am going to purchase one. It can climb essentially straight up anything because it has a turbocharged diesel engine.
once we reached the Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO) we found half of it to be buried in snow and we had to dig for about half an hour to simply reach the door and be able to open it. Of course I also don't have pictures of this which makes me just as bummed as you but to give you an idea here is a picture of what the observatory looks like;
Although this is very misleading due to the fact that this picture was take much later in the summer. If you look close you can see a door on the back of the building in this picture. That was the door that we had to dig out it was buried up to about half way up the door. 
Next we headed back down into town and did some more work in the lab. This time I got some pictures to try and show you how awesome the integration sphere is. This is the picture of it straight on with a black cap covering the exit/entrance hole.
To understand the size of this it is about 1.1 meters across or about 3.7 ft across. Now in the next picture I take the cap off and I take a picture of the inside looking straight into the sphere.
This looks as if it is simply another flat white plate sitting within the "window" into the sphere even though this is a picture of the inside curvature of the sphere. This is a much easier thing to understand in person but the light is reflected out in such a uniform way that our eye can not detect the inside curvature of the sphere. That does it for today and hopefully I will venture out to the KHO again soon to get some pictures.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So the first of the many things that I have to share with you is the concept of 24hr sunlight. It truly is something that you cant imagine, your perception of time goes right out the window because think about the amount of time you see it getting dark and either get tired or simply know its late. This doesn't happen at all, therefore you don't get the natural reaction to go to sleep. My example is shown below try to guess which one is day and which one is night;

Now maybe you guessed right but I certainly would not have, the top picture was taken at 2pm and the bottom picture was taken at midnight. That's right blue sky at midnight, never thought I would see that. Now moving on to today which was my official first day of work, upon entering the University I had to take my shoes off which is a custom here in Longyearbyen.
The above picture is from the apartment complex where you also have to take off your shoes upon entering the building. My understanding is that this tradition started when it was mostly a mining town and buildings wanted to keep out the mining dust. So I got to walk around the University all day in my socks which is the only way to be inside so I am a fan of this tradition. Now on to the inside of UNIS which is the university here in Longyearbyen, and after taking off my shoes I was directed to my office;
Which the best part of is the fact that anytime I turn towards the window I see this outside.

The building pictured above is the other wing of the University. Now this University just had work done to it in order to expand it and when being in the new section (where my office is) my thought that the Norwegians had a talent for architecture was completely cemented. This is the hallway where I work;

Why don't all buildings look like this. Then after settling into my office I was shown the lab where I will be working in UNIS. This is truly where the magic happens;
This is the main room that contains most of the instrumentation involved in what I will be doing. The large green sphere to the right side of the picture is called an integration sphere, its purpose is to provide uniform light such that it has a intensity variance across the front port of +-2%. Therefore you can shine this light into a camera and by knowing what the camera should see you can see where the camera faults are by analyzing the camera's output, or its picture. What I am trying to do is calibrate a camera that looks at the entire night sky and provides a "fish eye" picture. This means that we have to put the camera within  the sphere, and this is what I have to figure out how to do.
Finally the question of the day, what does not belong in the picture below?

Monday, May 21, 2012

So with the final stage of my trip complete I am now in the Arctic. The final stage of the plane ride took me on a trip through the archipelago which is Svalbard;

Then after landing I was driven to where I will be staying in some very spacious living quarters, my example being my closet. Even after some ample spacing of all my clothes it still looks like this;
Once I was moved in I was able to walk into the town which although is very small has everything you could need, this is a view of the main walking street through the town;
The whole town essentially sits in  valley on which each side sits snow blanketed mountains. There is some snow on the ground but not a lot, enough to snowmobile though.
Every moped or even motorcycle that you would see in your average town is replaced here by snowmobiles which makes sense. My final picture for now is of the local widlife so far. As I was walking out of the grocery store this reindeer was calmly walking down the street and apartently there are multiple "longyearbyen" reindeer that simply wander around.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My First day in Norway has come to a close with the sun setting at about 10, and it being dark by 11:30pm I have gotten a small taste as to what tomorrow and the next nine weeks will bring. To recap today, the thought that was continually running through my head was wow Norwegians are seriously creative.
My first example of this is something as simple as steps;
Now Im sure someone of you have seen something like this somewhere but I sure haven't. I just love the simple creativity of combining the two functions of the stairs as handicap stars and normal stars in such an original way.  The next area where they seriously think outside the box is in their architecture as seen below;
Both of the above pictures are apartment complexes located right on the water in Oslo and they are some of the coolest buildings I have ever seen. the fact that they sit right next to this makes them even more impressive;
Which is the bay around which all of Oslo sits. Some final pictures from Oslos cemented my love for the town in that although I am over in Europe and very far north it still does not mean the peopla here have poor taste in cars;

How can you not love a city that parks these beauties on its main street. Although I believe I need to have a talk with the people who own the store below;

And inform them that SAAB is no longer a company and they might want to think about expanding.... Finally    Edvard was very excited to finally be going back to his homeland;
So of course he had to celebrate with his national beverage. Thats it for now and up into the true great beyond tomorrow.
Goodbye Night Time