Friday, January 19, 2007

Laurel has arrived in Svalbard

You may remember this posting...
It's a link that we made to Laurel McFadden who is spending a year working in the Arctic Circle on a huge photography project called COLD PHOTO.
Last weekend she arrived at her accommodation at UNIS: the University complex on Svalbard near Longyearbyen. Here is a photo which she took of her new accommodation: importantly, the picture was taken at MID DAY !

Picture copyright: Laurel McFadden

As we get into the review section of the course, we will perhaps ask Laural to answer some questions relating to life in Svalbard, and particularly whether people on Svalbard are concerned about Global Warming in the same way as other areas of the world are, bearing in mind that they perhaps have more to lose than we do ?

Update: A recent posting has talked about some of the problems caused by the extreme cold and darkness - particularly for photography!

6 comments:

Laurel said...

Hello again! Svalbard has indeed been quite dark and cold - although not quite as cold as Greenland. Recently we've been seeing some brief glimpses of dusky light on the horizon, so the darkness will be slowly lifting.

I'm happy to answer any questions anyone has, whether about what its like to live here, what kinds of science are going on, or anything you may be interested in. Svalbard is a VERY unique community for the Arctic.

-Laurel

GeoBlogs said...

Hi again Laurel
Thanks for the posting.
We'll be in touch with some questions when we get a little closer to some exams which we have coming up later in the year.
UNIS looks like a great place to be a student (from my perspective anyway) - what nationalities are there at the university - are they mainly Norwegian ?
Will keep reading ColdPhoto...

Thanks
Alan

Laurel said...

UNIS is a great place to work (technically, I'm a research assistant). It's very open between the staff and students, and there's an incredible amount of field work opportunity for everyone - a really unique place to learn.

I would say its about 50% Norwegian. Other than that, there's a lot of Swedish, Finnish, German, and Icelandic students. I know a few French people, a few Polish, only one other American, and one English person and one Russian. With only 300 people in the university, you very quickly get to know everyone at least a little!

-Laurel

GeoBlogs said...

Sounds great!
Do they have space for a UK Geography teacher who's interested in technology and creativity ?

One question which the students always ask is: do the people on Svalbard feel threatened by Global Warming bearing in mind that they are perhaps more in the 'front line' than us back in Norfolk (although our school is only 5m above sea level!)
Take care!
Alan

Laurel said...

Actually, the university is starting an Arctic technology deparment. I'm not sure about their hiring procedures, but I know the actual standing staff is rather small - a large percentage of the courses are taught by visiting professors. If you're interested in coming up and teaching for awhile, I would definitely get in touch with UNIS!

As for the local perspective on global warming: it's complicated, in my experience. Svalbard is extremely modern - so, on the one hand, the general population is highly educated, and with a major international university in the center, there's an acute awareness for Arctic science and its implications. On the other hand, there's relatively little community connection to the land, when you compare Longyearbyen to other Arctic communties. While it's impossible to live in the Arctic without having some attachment and reliance on the local dynamics, Longyearbyen is so modern that the town is no longer fundamentally dependent on the climate.

In Greenland, the community was literally failing in part because of the effects of climate change on hunting patterns. Here, although the townspeople are technically more knowledgeable about what's going on, there's less emotional connection. When someone notices there's no pack-ice this year, it doesn't mean their family's going to starve. However, being face-to-face with the yearly changes means that this is a population that cannot deny global warming (regardless of what may be causing it).

Bear in mind that this is based on my personal experience, and I've only been in Longyearbyen a few weeks. I'm always learning new things...

-Laurel

GeoBlogs said...

Thanks for the response - very helpful!
Interesting recent photo of the cars plugged in - good example of human use of technology to overcome limitations of low temperatures