Longyearbyen, Svalbard

On the last day of the trip, we pulled back into port in Longyearbyen early in the day. We spent an hour or two at UNIS, the University Centre in Svalbard. Several groups presented their final projects from the week and we also heard a few of the UNIS faculty members talk about UNIS and their research. Following the presentations, we took a mini field trip to the UNIS carbon dioxide sequestration site.


The UNIS CO2 sequestration project is still in an experimentation phase where they’re injecting water into the ground to see where it goes and how the process can be completed safely. The ultimate goal is to take CO2 emitted during drilling projects and re-inject it into the ground. If they can figure out how to reliably store the released CO2 in the ground, it will reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere which contribute to global warming.

The UNIS carbon capture and sequestration effort is not the only one, but the technique is still fairly limited in applicability. It can be hard to inject the CO2 in such a way that it will stay in the ground. It’s also difficult to make the process cost-effective.

After our little field trip and a great lunch at UNIS, we were released into the wilds of Longyearbyen. We were given accommodations in a guest house in Nybyen, the town just up the valley from Longyearbyen. Calling Nybyen its own town is generous, since really it’s just a few dorms a little further from the town center than others.


The walk to Nybyen was a little longer than we were anticipating. Luckily, a  bus had already delivered most of our luggage to the guesthouse. At least there was a nice view of colorful Longyearbyen from up the hill.


There were also some interesting sights on the walk. We passed a few of these “fyrhaus” buildings. I figured out pretty quickly that as with the rest of the Norwegian language, nothing was as it seems and that this wasn’t actually a firehouse.  Our agreed-upon explanation was that these were generators for the town and maybe they really had the job of making fire, rather than putting it out.


The walk signs helping us along the way exhibited much more style than the ones in the U.S. do. The one, for example, was sporting a fedora.


We did see this cool totem pole outside the elementary school, though. It reminded me of being in Sitka, small-town feel and everything.longyearbyen-totem-pole

After checking into our rooms, we were free to explore the town for the evening. Our flight from Longyearbyen to Oslo left at 4:40 am the next morning, and we had to meet the bus at 2 am, so many people made plans to go out on the town and some even opted to not sleep, for fear of sleeping late and missing the plane. I tend to be in the latter category, so I went that route.

With time to kill, I headed into town to see what Longyearbyen’s “night” life has to offer, even though the sun doesn’t set this time of year. Our first stop was a great pub with a mining theme. It was dark inside so you quickly forgot it was still light outside. I particularly liked the photography on the walls.


After a drink at the pub, we were off to meet most of the rest of the student crowd, at the well-named Svalbar. There was pool and soccer and burgers, all the usual fittings of a bar.


What really topped off the experience, though, was one beer you won’t find everywhere: Arctic, Your Favorite Beer from the Arctic. I’m not sure it’s my favorite (it was probably the equivalent of a Bud Light), but it was hard to resist in the moment, especially because the hole on the tab was in the shape of a polar bear. They think of everything!


As the night wore on, the people on our group seemed to all end up at Svalbar, so I ended up there the rest of the night. Around 2 am, I headed back up the hill to the room to get my things together and take a shower before the long journey home. At 3 am, two buses pulled up the take everyone to the airport.

The airport was small so we got through to the (only) gate fairly quickly. The flight to Oslo was uneventful, though the lines when we got there were brutal. At one point, they made us all leave the area around our gate where we had been waiting for more than 30 minutes and re-enter the gate area. It was really annoying. The Oslo airport is prettier and more comfortable than most, though.


After Oslo we were off to Newark where I had another 8 hour layover. I didn’t go into the city this round, opting instead to pass the time in the United Lounge (free wine and chocolate covered raisins!). I finally arrived back in Austin around midnight. And so my trip to the Arctic was over, not with a bang but a whimper.


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