One day, we stopped in the nearly abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden. Named after pyramid-shaped mountains nearby, the town used to bustle with more than 1000 permanent residents. But it was abandoned in 1998, a few years after a terrible plane crash in Longyearbyen killed 141 on their way to the settlement.
We came to Svalbard to look at rocks, but that’s not all we got. In fact, there was a fair bit of flora and fauna to be found as we travelled around Spitsbergen island.
Our field trip to Svalbard was dubbed “Svalex”, which roughly stood for Svalbard Expedition. Statoil have been sponsoring this trip for Norwegian students for 13 years and our experience was the first experiment in bringing it to America. It was meant to be a pedagogical field trip to impress upon us the importance of geology in the oil industry.
And so we did a lot of looking at rocks.
I didn’t know much about rocks before, so I learned a ton while we were there. Every day, we would leave the ship for a shore excursion to look at a particular formation of interest. To do so, we had to get suited up in our warm, waterproof clothes, rubber boots, and life jackets. There was a mud room on board the ship where we got ready and launched.
As I mentioned in the last post, the ship was really nice. I had been expecting a rather stark research vessel, but instead we were greeted by a luxurious tourist cruise-liner.
My trip to Svalbard starting very early. As if typical for me, I opted to stay up packing, cleaning, and organizing before I left for the airport. The taxi arrived at 3:45 am and we went on to pick up two friends who were also going on the trip before heading to the airport.
Our flight left Austin at 6 am which put us in Newark around mid morning. We had an 8-hour layover, so most of the group (about 20) decided to head into Manhattan to pass the time instead of being cooped up in the airport.
The train ride to Penn Station really took me back to my Philly days, train conductor and all. I had been a LONG time since I was in NYC, much less near the touristy bits like Times Square. The place was buzzing with late-summer tourists. The group I was with opted for lunch at a nearby pub we stumbled upon followed by a trip to the World Trade Center Memorial.