Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Norway Report

Elizabeth is now up in Svalbard, Norway! She says:
There are 13 students from all over Europe, several from Norway, and only me from the US. We have lectures in the morning and lab in the afternoon. We toured the German icebreaker-research vessel, Polarstern, on Friday. Next week will have some field excursions to nearby valleys and will do a couple days of cruising as well later on. We are looking at both marine and terrestrial/aquatic microorganisms with PCR and various digestion methods.
The group of students have taken a couple great local hikes, after we got access to rifles with which to protect us from polar bears. On our first day we had to do target practice and safety instructions with the rifles and then swimming in immersion suits in the harbor. However, the bears are protected so you have to demonstrate afterwards that your life was in danger otherwise you are fined for shooting and killing a bear. On the other hand, the reindeer are very tame and wander through town in ones and twos. They don't really have any predators so they are not afraid. The scenery here is spectacular, steep mountains, glaciers, braided rivers in flatbottomed valleys, the fjord right here. And the town is very pretty in some ways. Since there is no green grass it always looks like early spring with barren soil and mining debris. But the houses are very nice.

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