Amphibious Trilogies

The Northern Sea Route #19

Day 19 on Prof. Molchanov
Wednesday 10 July 2019

Slept until lunch. Went up to the laboratory with Amanda and Natalia. Worked on the map and the route of the expedition. Got some new ideas to follow the geopolitical, economic, social, cultural, artistic and ecological routes of the boat in addition to the boats planned and actual route. Then we went down in the bar and listened to all the presentations.  After the presentations I went back up in the lab and drew Barentsburg from a photo. I also showed my drawing of the bridge to Igor from the crew. He said it was nice and then he photographed it 😉 I had another nap before dinner. After dinner Amanda and I went up in the lab to sign a card for Daniel. We wrote: you don´t have an English accent at all!!) I hope he will find it funny and laugh. Tomorrow we will arrive in Arkhangelsk. I think I will start packing now.

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Laboratory #18

Day 18 on Prof. Molchanov
Tuesday 9 July 2019

Got up late. Skipped breakfast and went straight to lunch. Went back to bed. Slept another four hours. Was awakened by Alexander in order to sign paper for toll at the bar. There I met Amanda for coffee and we decided to go to the lab and work a bit. Was interrupted by the Koreans and the Swiss who needed the lab to take samples. I drew them. Afterwards we had a chat with Natalia about the eastern sea route and the trip to Svalbard. Went up on deck to take down the SD card from the Game Camera. 10 minutes of tai chi. Had dinner. Had a nap. There was a second birthday party. Went to bed around 4. Nite.

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Getting somewhere #17

Day 17 on Prof. Molchanov
Monday 8 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went back to bed. Skipped both lectures. Went on the roof. Did tai chi with Amanda. Ate lunch. Had a nap. Went on the bridge and drew the view from up there. Happy with the result. Looked for Amanda to show it to her. Couldn´t find her anywhere. Had another nap. At 4 PM there was the initiation for having crossed the polar circle. I skipped it. Instead I was working with Amanda in the laboratory.  We interview Natalia about how the trip is organized. She explained us how the trip is financed. I think we might be getting somewhere. At night: Birthday party. Karaoke. A lot to drink. People letting go on the dance floor.

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Tai Chi Tai Chi #16

Day 16 on Prof. Molchanov
Sunday 7 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went to Zgorito´s lecture on how to write a Ph.D. (or more how not to do it). He was constantly making fun of the Swiss. Actually, it was quite interesting. I took notes. I am skipping the second lecture in order to write this. I think instead I will go out and draw some more. I drew the back of the boat from the view sitting in the dingy. Took down the images from the Game Camera. There was a lot of weather this time. Sauna at 15. Did tai chi tai chi with Amanda on the roof with a GoPro camera attached to my chest. The result quite transcendental, as Barbara put it. I gave Barbara the transcribed interview. She corrected it herself and gave it back to me. I will have a look at it again tomorrow. Tonight, there are presentations of fairytales at the bar. I am not participating. If we could present what we want, with whomever we want, however we want, then maybe I would participate.

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North Eastern Passage #15

Day 15 on Prof. Molchanov
Saturday 6 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went to the lectures. The waves have subdued a bit and it has started to rain. After the lectures, I interview Barbara about the Northern Sea Route. She says that the two most important things to mention about the Northern Sea Route, which by the way is only a part of the North Eastern Passage, is the long history of people wanting to travel it, all the polar researchers that worked along it, providing us with scientific facts about the region, but that never got mentioned in history books, and the second most important thing is that the desire for traveling along this line has up until now always been driven by economic interests. I recorded the interview and transcribed it immediately. I will give it for Barbara to read tomorrow. During the interview there was a sighting of both dolphins and killer whales. I missed both. Afterwards, Amanda and I work a bit on the stop-motion film. One film arriving at Svalbard, and one film of the storm. We skipped the quiz at the bar and instead we went out on the deck where I drew the lifeboat. It was just so nice to sit in the late evening sun. Christina came and interviewed us for her school project. Little by little more and more people joined us, someone brought out music and drinks, and soon it was a small party. There were many sightings of schools of dolphins. Went to bed around 1:00.

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Riders of the storm #14

Day 14 on Prof. Molchanov
Friday 5 July 2019

At 8:00 I woke up by the waves. 3 meters. Breakfast was over, and I had missed it. Got up, ate a banana and had a coffee, and headed to the bar in time for Daniel McGinnis lecture on the formation of methane bubbles in the Black Sea near Crimea peninsula, Ukraine. During the lecture, the waves outside grew bigger and bigger. Afterwards, when it was time for Anna Wesmann´s lecture on Sea Ice, the waves were 4 meters and the wind is blowing at between 8 and 21 meters per second. A cup of tea spilled and broke Alexanders laptop with the power point presentation. I checked upon Amanda. She was going through some stomach aches, but otherwise was fine, so I decided to go to bed. I slept for maybe an hour, and then it was time for lunch. Chicken soup and some burger-like meat things with rice. The soup spilled out of the bowl on both sides. I ate and went back to bed. Slept for four more hours. The waves are hitting over deck and we are not allowed to be outside. I can hear the boat bang down on the water from the waves, and I can see the waves splash on the windows of the cabin. This weather is forecasted to last for a day and a half, but there is no precise prediction. It might last longer. The storm moves too. The worse would be if the storm hits from the side, but it is not. It hits us from behind which is making the motion of the boat more up and down, and less from side to side. I will rapport on how it goes. I sleep five hours more. Get up. Play card games with Fanny and the Korean girls. Ate dinner. Went up to the bridge to see the storm with Amanda. Shared a Toblerone. Nothing much.

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Barentsburg alive

DAY 13 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Thursday 4 July 2019
Visas, sunshine, dogs, foxes, connection to climate change

The snow on the mountain has melted away since I have been here just five days ago. The sun is shining on Barentsburg today. Visas for reentry to Arkhangelsk are collected in the consular’s mansion. This is the first time without guided tours and presentations since the first landing on Spitsbergen (Barentsburg). A mood change. A sense of freedom.

Brynjar is waiting for the Barentsburg’s Red Bear Pub & Brewery to open. And by the way, the local brew uses pure glacier water. He is drawing in his sketch book. I take a walk northwestwards, away from the centre of the town.

Gambling on climate change. Optimism in the air. Several buildings along the shore are being restored, such as this cow shed.

A brick mason tells me that there’s a big demand for storage on Barentsburg right now. Like others living in the Russian settlement he anticipates an increase in tourism in the future. The brick house will expand the storage capacity for mainly imported goods, but also for export, such as coal and local beer.

On the edge of the settlement an elderly husky dog seeks refuge from the heat of the afternoon sun. Now a pensioner, unable to pull tourists on sledges across the snow and ice, he guards the gate of the husky farm. His name is Canute!

A family leaves their bikes before heading down to the shore.

A family of arctic foxes have a similar idea.

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Barentsburg again #13

Day 13 on Prof. Molchanov
Thursday 4 July 2019

Got up (barely). Ate breakfast. At 09:00 a scientist from Barentsburg was supposed to come to give a power point presentation on the boat. There is no place to present the work there, so they bring it here. But the scientist comes late, and instead Amanda and I do tai chi on the top deck. When the scientist finally come she says that she is only an engineer and cannot answer any questions about the other research going on here. So, the landing also starts late. Once in B-burg, Amanda and I walk straight to the local brewery, but it is closed, so we go to the handicraft shop. There Amanda buys two gifts and gets one for free. A whale, a sea horse and a babooshka with coal in its bag for me. Afterwards we go to the canteen. The coffee is more expensive than last time and doesn´t taste as good. At the local shop I buy three Russian note books and some cards. I go back to the brewery and have a beer with Natalia. She speaks excellent Norwegian, and we get along very well. Amanda joins us eventually, and we all head back for the boat around 15:00. Before leaving, we film the archipelago in the distance by using the waterproof case from KHiO. Back on the ship I fall asleep for 1 ½ hour before dinner. In the evening I draw Amanda on the top deck. At night we drink wine and speak with Daniel and the swiss researcher kids. They say there will be a storm hitting tomorrow. I carefully store everything safely and close the window tight. Nite.

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Longyearbyen #12

Day 12 on Prof. Molchanov
Wednesday 4 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went to Longyearbyen. Amanda and I hurried to the center of town in order to have time for a coffee and internet before the presentations at the University in Svalbard (UniS). It was quite unsuccessful. We walked in the wrong direction, grabbed a coffee at the bakery and didn´t even have time to check the internet properly before we ran to the UniS. Still, we ended up getting there too early. The others were 40 minutes late. In this waiting period, Amanda got to know the Norwegian delegation at UniS, I fixed my phone and had finally access to internet. When the others arrived, the presentations could start. After the people at UniS had shared their power point presentation, the crew from the Russian research team shared theirs powerpoint presentation. And then, after the usual ceremony of exchanging gifts was over, Amanda and I took off from the university and went up to Funken for lunch. Got to rant a bit about the other people on the boat. Got to share work. Got to give ourselves some mind space to think about our options. We called Andrew just to say hello and to let him know that we made it safely half way. On our way back down from the mountain we bought some wine and some batteries for the Game camera. After I sent my postcards it was time to leave for the boat. Back on board the showers and toilets were broken. Hopefully they will manage to have them fixed soon. Sailed on to Barentsburg. PS: had a small gathering in our cabin at night: Daniel, Anja, Amelie, Amanda and I. It got late.

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Revisiting Longyearbyen

DAY 12 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Wednesday 3 July 2019

I have only been on Spitsbergen once before. That was in January 2019, when the Amphibious Trilogies team took part in the Darkness Conference in Longyearbyen. Two days before, several people were evacuated when avalanches caused a risk to the town. It was very dark then and it is very greyish now. It’s raining. Dribbling. Longyearbyen looks rather dreary compared to the dark season when the landscape is covered by snow and ice. When the twenty four hours of darkness is illuminated by the orbiting moon, stars and the Aurora Borealis, reflecting faint dark-blueish light, making majestic silhouettes of the surrounding mountains. In contrast, the electric lights within the town shine brightly. Take some steps away from the light, the scope of vision decreases exponentially. It is like a planet of itself, a little terrella surrounded as it is, a black void now to be discovered in the future.

It’s 09.39 (vessel time 07.39): Brynjar and I land on Longyearbyen. It’s raining. Dribbling. Uncovered. Exposed. Shoddy.

Without waiting for the other participants to come to the shore, we head off to a cafe to get a good cup coffee. On the route we encounter a fast flowing river. It wasn’t there in January when snow covered the terrain. How to cross it? The river is shallow. Can we make it with our shoes? A reindeer grazing on vegetation mocks us.

It’s 11.25. Despite the long walk over a bridge to the cafe, we are on time for the presentation at University in Svalbard (UIS). Our fellow voyagers are nowhere to be seen. What’s happened? That’s the question for us and our friendly hosts. We speak with them about Amphibious Trilogies, islands, ponds, and passages.

13.00hrs later, they come in dribbles and drops. Cold, wet and hungry. There was a problem with the RIB in choppy water. As good citizens of the good ship Professor M. most of them have been waiting for each other on the harbour. As in Ny-Ålesund, the presentation is cut to a minimal.

more science less art: permafrost, melting, plankton, biological mass, on earth, sun penetrates, sea ice, thin, strength, water, disturbing flora, cryosphere, arctic basins, quaternary, periglacial, geomorphological, glacially, land, speeding up, under the water.

Since being on the Floating Arctic University and in Ny-Ålesund most of these keywords have been scrutinised through lectures, practical science and presentation.

I take a photograph outside UIS. You can see the vessel, Prof. M anchored some metres or fathoms beyond.

At last we are given free time. Wanting to take some time in luxury and privacy, Brynjar and I head up to a hotel we know, the venue of the Darkness Conference. The food is good. The atmosphere is calming. The mainly Swedish staff are welcoming. We think about taking a flight home. But hey! We’ve been in similar situations throughout Amphibious Trilogies when psychological aspects raises its head and becomes overwhelming. We debrief ourselves. We strengthen us. We move our minds in a positive vein. We decide that we will complete the expedition.

19.00 (vessel time ): We meet up on the harbour at the designated time, and wait for the only RIB to take us on our homeward journey. We are hungry. Tomorrow, if the sea is willing, we will be in Barentsburg to collect new visa applications and passports that we need to enable us to enter Russian territory once again on the mainland.

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