Monday, June 25, 2012

This past weekend I took part in a different type of adventure up here in Svalbard. Due to the fact that I was not able to rent a rifle I decided to put the conquering of the next mountain off until next weekend. Instead I went to the mid summer festival that happens every year here at Longyearbyen. It takes place down on the beach and they make a huge bonfire for everyone to sit around, it made for quiet the nice scene.

As I got down there I saw a strange sight, which I will show you first and then explain what it is.

It looks like a bunch of children playing with sticks. What they are actually doing is protecting themselves from the dive bombing birds that surround them. These birds apparently called Tern's make their nest all over Svalbard and generally close to the human population. Although when you get close to their nest they begin to dive bomb you and attempt to attack you with their sharp beaks. It makes for quiet the strange sight and certainly makes you watch where you are going. I also luckily had been warned about the danger of these birds from a Grad Student back in NH. There seemed to be a collections of nests just past the fire and as the night went on it seemed to almost become a challenge to see how far you could go.
A little while later on there was an all boys choir that came and sang to everyone right on the water, which was very pleasant.

Later on I talked to one of the boys and it turned out that they were a group from northern Pennsylvania and were doing a tour. They were very good and it was nice to meet some one from the US. Although it was hard to continually pay attention with this behind me.

It was overall a very nice night and a good time to meet some locals. Through all of these pictures you can see that it was a cloudy weekend, but that amazing thing is that even when it is cloudy Svalbard still continues to be stunningly beautiful!

Nothing like a snow covered mountain peeking out from behind the clouds.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Due to the fact that I have been very busy with work I haven't had as much time this week for adventures. So I have decided to share some of what I have been doing at work. I will also show one of the most satisfying things that is possible in the engineering world. Designing something, building your design, and then having it all work. For the first part of my work here I had to design a system that control the x, y, and z position of a camera lens such that we could accurately center a camera for testing and know its exact position. Then be able to return to this exact position for different cameras. So through the awesome world of Solid Works I was able to create this.

So in the above picture I have labeled the integration sphere 1, which is the light source that we will use to calibrate the camera. Then labeled 2 is the acrylic dome that will fit inside the dome to replicate the actual domes used at the observatory. Then labeled 3 is a light blocker which blocks the spheres light source from the field of view of the camera. Labeled 4 are the lab jacks that will control the height of the camera, and then labeled 5 are the tracks along which they can slide to change their distance from the sphere.
Now this is where I am in the process of building up the system.

I am currently testing different ways to make the blocker labeled 3 in the top picture. Once I have the system fully built I will be sure to put up more pictures.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Today I wanted to share something a little different with everyone. I was able to sit down with my boss and one of the P.H.D. students from UNIS and have a nice long lunch the other day. Some of the topics to come up were healthcare, school, and general economy. Now I can't say that I am an expert on the way everything is done in the US but I knew enough to be amazed by the system's that Norway has in place. To start off with college is free, well the school is at least. Students only pay for housing and food, which certainly also add up but not in the way that college costs in the US do. They couldn't believe when I told them how much we pay for schooling and the average amount of loans that students were taking out. It made so much more sense to me to be able to go to a school simply due to grades and getting in, and not have the cost of the school be a main deciding factor. Then when they mentioned public healthcare I couldn't believe how much their government supported them. They even showed me a clip on you tube from Micheal Moore's movie Sicko. The only part being that because Norway is so good Mr. Moore didn't include the clip in his video because he thought people wouldn't believe him.... So check this out.

Now who doesn't want to move to Norway?

The other thing I have to share with everyone today is the climate change up here. I have now been here a little over 4 weeks and although it just creeps above freezing on a nice day the snow has been melting. The first shot is a picture I took within the first week I was here.

This is the mountain looked like last weekend from my hike.

Strange thing to think of the arctic in the summer time and snow melting!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Today I got up and was greeted by beautiful blue skies and the calling to go outside and hike something. There is mountain that shadows over Longyearbyen that had been calling my name and so I set my sights on it.

It may look small from here it actually became much more of a climb than I thought. This hike I wanted to avoid my faults from last time so 1st, I avoided the snow and climbed the back side of the mountain, and 2nd I went up with a friend. It certainly made for adventure climbing the back side of this mountain with no path and just rocks to help me climb my whole way up. The whole climb up I had a beautiful view of the bay and of Longyearbyen.

Once I got to the top the view was even better and it was interesting to look at Longyearbyen from above. Also from walking into UNIS I knew it was a cool building but looking at it from above showed just how awesome it is.

In this picture I have labelled the guest house where I live as 1, and then UNIS as 2. How cool is that building? At the top I sat and had a nice long lunch with the beautiful view of the arctic expanding below me. I think my friend had a good lunch too because I was finally in his true environment and had his beverage of choice.

Overall it was a great day to be outside!

From my high view point I also found my challenge for next weekend, which will be the other side of the valley.

It also looked like there is a lot of area on top of the other side of the valley that is just waiting to be explored. Then on the way back down I decided to go down the front through the snow, which was surprisingly easier.The snow was still deep enough that you could simply make steps out of the snow and just walk down instead of climb on all fours as I had to do to get up.

It was an awesome way to spend my Saturday afternoon and I only wish I had been here a month sooner because you could still slightly see the ski tracks down the mountain from when it was covered with snow..... Its hard to tell but this is incredibly steep and it would be an awesome sight to see someone ski down.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Today I go the pleasure of visiting KHO again. We went up to cover the instrument domes due to the fact that the observing season is now over due to the fact that with the sun always up you can no longer preform measurements and collect data on the aurora or atmosphere. This did mean that I got to ride in the band wagon again!

So even by the time we got up to the station it had already been a good day. It was interesting on the drive up that the amount of snow that had melted was seriously noticeable. A large section of the road up to KHO had melted but unfortunately not enough to drive up.... So once we got up there our job was to place metal covers over the clear acrylic dome's. This is important because during the summer they can have sand storms up here and it is important to try and protect the domes and not scratch them. So we had to cover the domes as shown below.

To do this we had to haul the covers out from the back of KHO and walk them down the hallway such that we could pull them up onto the roof with a rope.

There were also two different sizes of domes so after hauling up about 20 smaller domes we got to hall up 4 large domes for the larger instruments. After a few hours of work and of course a long lunch the KHO roof now looked like this.

Throughout the day we had beautiful blue skies to make the work all the better. It will always be a pleasure to venture up to KHO and I only hope I can someday see if in full operation during the winter, until then I can settle for this.

Monday, June 11, 2012

On Sunday morning I've had a ncie routine of getting up and going into town to get breakfast, when I went in yesterday morning the town was more crowed than I have ever seen it.I couldn't understand it because it is generally very quiet in the mornings. Then on my walk back I saw something looming in the bay.

This towering cruise ship was sitting at the dock. I was impressed that it was even able to fit into the bay, and I heard later that it had brought over 3000 people into the town. I also overheard that they had just been on a cruise around most of the islands of Svalbard and that certinaly sounded appealing. It seemed like an odd destination for a cruise but I know I would love to be on it. So I spent the rest of my day walking along a road parallel to the bay and hoping I would get to see it sail off. This road brought me closer to some of the old mining establishments that I had seen from down in town. What I have been told is that all of the mining structures that are still in place from when it began are considered historic now and can not be torn down. Which I think gives a nice feel to Longyearbyen and it is certainly all good history and makes for some good pictures.

These are remnants of the bucket system that they used to use to transport the coal to the main station which is picture below.

Then next to this building is what can only be a museum of some of the history of coal mining here in Longyearbyen, unfortunately it was closed but that was okay by me because the coolest part of the museum was outside.

They unfortunately were not labelled with a year, but it was very interesting to see their original version of the band wagon that I got a drive in earlier on. Then after a nice walk I sat and walked the ship take off. I noticed a couple of funny things the first of which were the people running along the side of the ship.

I guess it is better than a treadmill but still not something I would want to have to do, especially because it was cold on land and being as high up as he is I'm sure it was freezing. The next event happened during the departure of the ship. As they were undoing the ropes that held the ship and dock one of the workers was unable to get one of the ropes undone. So another worker ran out of a building at the other end and at that moment someone happened to be biking by the building he came out of....

He then borrowed the bike and rode down to help out the worker. After which he calmy rode back and handed back the bike and biker promptly left the ship yard. I thought it was a strange series of events but proves just how nice people are here. The departure only became more amusing though. The ship went through its very loud safety instructions and then started to push off. The first thing that made this interesting was the way that a boat of this size could move sideways away from a dock which I didn't know was possible.

it apparently has some kind of motor that is able to shoot a jet of water sideways which propels it away from the dock which I found very interesting. The best part of it all was through this whole process and as it began to move forwards it was projecting opera all across the calm arctic bay. I certainly do not know my opera but this sounded very familiar and I have tried to look for the song but to no success. I am sure that you could hear even down in town, it put a whole new meaning to an "exit" song.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

So this morning I went for nice hike into the mountains. My plan was to go out for about 2 hours to simply explore where I could hike on future adventures... Well it turned out to be a little longer than expected due to the fact that it is hard to stop hiking snow covered mountains, I have to say I blame you for that mom. By the time I got back to my apartment 5 hours had gone by and I all I want to do is go back out there! So to start from town this is where I was looking to go out hiking.

From walking around town before I had seen a path leading out in the mountains and so I followed it. The arrow in the above picture points to one of the spots I get to and I will tell you when I show you a picture facing down from there. Anyway even though I went out feeling as prepared as I could be there is just nothing I had done that could relate to this hike. Most of the hike was on snow and I only had biking boots, so the first problem I ran into was sinking into the snow. In hind sight I will try and find some snow shoes for my next trip because when every 10th step resulted in this it made it considerably more difficult.

I would generally sink up to a little above my knee but a few time I went almost up to my waste, and it made me remember just how deep all of the snow I was walking on was. Now the one thing that I learned about hiking up here is that you never reach the top. Every time I would tell myself that all I wanted to do was get to the top of the crest right ahead of me but on top of that was always another hill or mountain to climb. So the first crest that I reached was this.

In this you can see the valley where Longyearbyen is situated but the more impressive view from this spot were the mountains to the left of this picture.

This picture does no do the scene justice but it was just a beautiful sweeping mountain side, and the more impressive part I thought was the mix of ski trails and fallen snow boulders along the base of the mountain. Then continuing on up on my hike I then reached the place pointed out in the above picture with the arrow.

This truly blew my mind, it was such a clear day that I could even see across the bay to the mountains on the other side. Of course though when I turned around I saw this.

How could any person turn around at this point, the point of a hike is to reach the peak or the top, I had not done that yet so I continued on and I am very glad I did. My mother has told me about a hike she would like to do back home, it is called the knifes edge. As she has told me it is a hike up to a ridge that becomes very skinny therefore its name. Today I found the arctic version of this hike, and no matter how many picture I took I can not give it justice. I am looking back at the pictures now as I am posting this and none of them compare to walking this thin snow covered path along the true ridge of a mountain. This is what the path looked like as I faced back toward Longyearbyen.

The one thing that I think this picture does not show is just how much of a shear drop it was to either side, to the point of almost being vertical. What made it all worth it, besides how awesome it is, was the view. In this picture to my left was this.

Then to my right.

What makes me like the view to my right more was what I was able to see, I zoomed in such that you can see it better.

To help you see I drew in an arrow, but that small black patch is the KHO! Then down the hill from it you can see the two Sval-Sat satellites. I tried to go back through my KHO pictures to see if I would find a picture in the other direction but it was too cloudy that day. On fo the most amazing parts to me was that there were ski tracks leading down from the top of the moutain. They started a little before the wintery "knifes edge" began but still an impressive place to ski.

It is hard to see but those are all ski paths leading down off the mountain, Hunter if your reading this I got a challenge for ya.
Overall I can not wait to hike again, and you truly feel on top of the world up here.

Then on my way back down I came down a little different path and got a much better shot of Longyearbyen from high up.

This would be a much more appropriate picture to describe the peak that I pointed out from the picture I took down in town. It also shows the sweeping mountain side to the right that I was trying to show earlier as well. Finally back down at the bottom I found one of the only living plants I've seen the entire time I've been up here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

As I am sure many of you know that yesterday or last night depending on where you are in the world a very special event took place. This special event was the once in a lifetime occurrence of the Transit of Venus. This is when Venus passes in between the earth and the sun and is represented by a small black dot on the sun. Due to our 24 hr sunlight this is the perfect place to be for the event, the only issue with this came to be the weather. As midnight approached it became cloudier and the blue skies of the day were no where to be seen. Our only hope was to then catch the tail end of the event which ended at about 6:30am so I set my alarm for 6 to hopefully wake up to blue skies. Unfortunately I woke up to more clouds, even so I had to take a picture to know that somewhere in this picture Venus is hiding.
So as disappointing as this event was I can at least say I have a picture of Venus....It may be hard to see but if you look really closely it is there somewhere. Then of course by 7am we had beautiful blue skies again.
On a different note I have found something up here that I was very surprised to see. The sign below is a sign that I walk by everyday and luckily the other day I looked a little closer at it and found something amazing.

The thing that made me look closer was the Ski The East sticker which is a popular slogan on the east coast of the US. Then as read the other stickers I read the one on the left which read, "Ski Like a Local". Which is very appropriate for up here, the best part of this sticker is that I had seen it before. The bottom of the sticker reads, "Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, VT"! I couldn't believe my eyes, someone from VT had been here before and it made me feel great. Of course the more I thought about it the more I realized of course someone from VT had been here before, because well if I could think of anyone crazy enough to come ski out here it would be a Vermonter. This made me very proud and I love walking by this sign now.

Finally at work I have been working on preforming some image processing in order to design certain parts for my calibration setup. Then for fun I applied some of my code to pictures of Longyearbyen and was able to get some interesting pictures.

A final note that I just remembered is that if your interested in seeing what Longyearbyen looks like at any point the UNIS has rotating camera on its roof that can be viewed on the web. Here is the link if any of you are interested.

Monday, June 4, 2012

With the end of my second weekend and the start of my third work week I still continue having a hard time realizing where I am. There are certain friendly reminders such as the giant Polar bear above the door into the grocery store which help to daily remind me. Here are some other things that I see everyday that remind me I am far away from home. One of my favorites is the cross walk sign.
For some reason I cant help but smile whenever I see this sign, it seems to me to be a cross walk for a very particular group of people, one of which across is Indian Jones. The next thing that reminds me of where I am is the constant snowmobiles everywhere. Also the fact that the only real transportation related dealerships here are the three different snowmobile dealerships.

My favorite reminder still stays the scenery. It is hard to watch where you are walking but it is too hard to take your eyes off of the beautiful mountains that surround you on every side. This is how it looked up here this weekend.

This is the view looking down the main walking street where all the shops are located. The first building on the right is a restaurant and I always find it amazing that they have a porch and people are always eating on it. Then my final picture for today is of the beautiful day that we had up here today.

This is probably my favorite view of the mountains here, and I love the added effect of the clouds coming off of the top of the mountains with blue skies behind it all. Svalbard truly is a beautiful place to be in the summer.