Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Published 18.04.2009. Written by Endre Før Gjermundsen.

Fieldwork in Northwest Spitsbergen 12th of April to 10th of May, 2010

The 2010 field campaign in stunningly beautiful Northwest Spitsbergen became another success. Being spared for dramatic technical issues (except for a broken scooter, a broken sledge (which was later fixed) and some smaller stuff) we could keep a high focus on our scientific tasks. Stormy weather was our main rival this time. Despite less good weather days than previous years we managed to explore areas we had not earlier investigated, sampled unique localities and found many erratic boulders, something we were very satisfied with.


After the usual days of packing and safety briefing and safety courses for the field assistants the 3rd Icebound field campaign in Northwest Spitsbergen could begin. Tobias Hipp, the first new field assistant for this year flew to Ny-Ålesund where he would get a scooter from the AWIPV base, while Trygve Snøtun and Endre drove from Longyearbyen to Ny-Ålesund by scooters. There was lots of gear to bring, so the sledges were pretty heavy, thus forcing the speed to be limited. It was chosen to go around the main fiords giving us a stunning drive over the large glaciers. Heavy winds the weekend before departure made the glaciers pretty bumpy, limiting the speed even further. Except for the bumpy road, the weather was nice and the sky blue, so the tour became a memorable one. Late at night we arrived in Ny-Ålesund. Still some people were awake and we got ourselves installed at the AWIPEV base. Marcus, the station leader, welcomed us warmly the following morning. Carl Petter Nielsen, our second new field assistant this year and a Ny-Ålesund local, was joining the team from the town.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

It was very good to be back in the settlement and feel the warm hospitability of the people at the base and the inhabitants in Ny-Ålesund in general. Ny-Ålesund is a place of “yes” and problems are solved without any twisted long way around. Trygve and Endre were quite tired after the travel, but a good night sleep certainly helped, and the organizing could start and what we wanted to get done could be done. Our isolated weeks up in the remote Northwest Spitsbergen demands solid preparation and packing, so even if we had been through lots of packing in Longyearbyen, there was still quite a bit of work left.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

A sledge was slightly broken after the trip to Ny-Ålesund and this had to be repaired before departure. We got the necessary spare part with the next flight from Longyearbyen. The friendly carpenter, Kenneth, helped us to fix it quickly. All the eggs we had sent to Ny-Ålesund were traded into “fluid”eggs from the nice chef Bjarte. – A lot easier and safer for us, both for the bumpy travel and the cold temperatures in camp, so we were quite happy about that exchange.

After some days of fixing gear, packing and preparations we were ready to head for our famous campsite at Satelittpasset. Some spare petrol had to be taken and for this we needed volunteers to come along for the camp. Luckily we had no difficulties recruiting people to come along. Marcus, the AWIPEV Base leader, Bendik, Research Adviser in Kings Bay, and Vigdis, Optical Engineer in Norwegian Polar Institute, were our kind helpers.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

All seven of us departed together from Ny-Ålesund in great weather conditions. Unfortunately we didn’t get too far before one engine broke down. On Dronningspasset, less than an hour of slow driving from town, the scooter said thank you for the faith we had in it, but it was not willing to proceed. The rest of us continued the journey, while Trygve and Carl Petter returned back to town and swopped the broken scooter for Carl Petter’s backup scooter. After some lower clouds on Monacobreen it was fantastic to get up onto Teltpasset with a magnificent view towards our campsite at Satellitpasset, bathing in evening sun light. Our kind helpers were all astonished by the beauty of our campsite and the working area we had.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

With so many good helpers the camp was put up in record time. When Carl Petter and Trygve arrived some hours later we were therefore all installed and ready for a late and well-deserved dinner.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

The next day our helpers had to return back to Ny-Ålesund, but before they left we could take them up to Knatthøgda, a nearby peak with an incredible view to the entire Northwest Spitsbergen.

Photo: Trygve Snøtun

Photo: Trygve Snøtun

Building and improving the camp, reconnaissance trips scooping for potential sample location in areas we hadn’t been before, were our tasks for the next days. Tyskerfjellet, a mountain at the Neve of Niethebreen, east of Magdalenefjorden was the first mountain to be climbed this year. We got a sample from the 1012 high summit and from a shoulder lower down. Relatively cold temperatures along with some gusty winds and changing visibility made us mentally prepared for the conditions we could expect in the weeks to come. Two days later we recorded the coldest night during our field campaigns in Northwest Spitsbergen, - our outside thermometer had measured - 32,9°C.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Weather was quite unstable in the following days, from gusty whiteout conditions, to windows of clear sky. We managed to take advantages of the short weather windows quite well and got samples from the nearby surroundings these days. These were mostly of peaks and ridges we had previous discussed to sample but never had time for. The periods of bad weather was spent for improving the camp and building lee walls. With the amount of wind we had this year we really needed strong and big walls to prevent our tents from being blown away. We also spent bad weather days building a proper toilet cathedral like in previous years, giving us proper shelter when important tasks had to be done...

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

A few days later we were expecting visitors from Ny-Ålesund. This was actually the first time anyone came to visit us during our now several months up here. Linda, Dag and Kjell Ove were the first ones to dear. The morning the day they arrived the weather was so good that we needed to take advantage of it. Trygve and Endre went to Granitten, a mountain we have several samples from, to sample an erratic boulder we had been spotting earlier. Carl Petter and Tobias drove down to Lloyds Hotel where we had our fuel depot to fill up what they could… Shortly after both teams were back in camp our visitors arrived. Except for a broken scooter on the way they had had a good trip from Ny-Ålesund. Hotdogs and hamburgers were brought from town, meaning we were soon up to a fantastic barbeque. Our fantastic guests also brought special sausages from Valdres that didn’t arrive in time for our departure. The weather the next morning was unfortunately far from as good as the morning our helpers left, so we were not able to give Linda, Dag and Kjell Ove the same view as Marcus, Bendik and Vigdis had got. Our guests left later that day.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Days followed with heavy wind and precipitation. One night we had to get up several times to fasten the rope wires for our tents and improving the lee walls even further to avoid any serious damages to our tents. The following morning we called Torgeir, the airport meteorologist in Longyearbyen, hoping he could promise us improvements. Based on his thorough forecast we knew where we wanted to go and when the next weather window arrived we could take full advantage of it. Atgeiren, a mountain west of Satellitpasset, on Hoelhalvøya, was next to get our visit. Close to the coastline and close to perfect terrific weather, this was a trip we would remember. We got interesting samples on the very summit and also further down.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

From now on the weather generally improved and we got to investigate areas further away from our camp. Dronning Maud fjellet far southwest in our area was investigated; samples were taken from erratic boulders on Mitrahalvøya. The highlight was perhaps our trip to Buchananhalvøya. Here we camped and sampled several erratic boulders on this peninsula and investigated the surrounding areas. Stunning weather these days made this trip tremendous. We had a goal of driving onto Vasahalvøya to get samples here, but unfortunately it turned out to be quite a challenge. After some tries and thorough reconnaissance we finally had to give it up… However, great samples from Buchananhalvøya made up for not succeeding reaching Vasahalvøya.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Another peninsula that we managed to sample was the Reuschhalvøya. This peninsula is in the vicinity of the islands Danskøya and Amsterdamøya, which are the sites for todays so far only published study on exposure dating from Svalbard. Being able to compare our results from the nearby environment to this publication will be very interesting. Both erratic boulders and bedrock was sampled.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

After some more excursions our 2010 expedition to Northwest Spitsbergen was approaching its end. The trip back to town fortunately turned out to be lots easier than last year. Close to town, the snow had started to disappear, but we avoided getting stuck and were back in town without any big dramas. The party the following night in Ny-Ålesund became, according to our tradition, a highly memorable one. We were very satisfied with our samples and very happy for having taken maximum advantage of the small weather windows during our weeks in the area, a period generally characterized by somewhat worse weather than during our previous campaigns. We are exited to get the laboratory analyses on this year’s samples collection and hope they can provide us valuable information for solving the puzzle of Late Pleistocene glaciation history in Northwest Spitsbergen.

Photo: Tobias Hipp

Photo: Tobias Hipp

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Participants of the field campaign in Northwest Spitsbergen, April/May 2010

Endre Før Gjermundsen

Endre Før Gjermundsen

Ph.D. student, Glacial geology

About
Tobias Hipp

Tobias Hipp

Assistant

About