Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Day 241: Neighborhood #2

I'd like to list a few things I find awesome/fascinating about this place.

1) You are encouraged, nay, required to eat chocolate. Not as a treat, but as a survival mechanism. The sugars keep you warm. Also, they put a sort of chocolate frosting spread on bread, like most Americans use butter. For breakfast.

2) You're more likely to be attacked by a polar bear than robbed. Admittedly, the threat of being attacked by a polar bear is relatively high here, but this place is ridiculously safe otherwise. Someone I know in town lost their jacket and wallet. The next day they found the jacket and everything else on their kitchen table - someone had come into their house (of course the door was unlocked, no one here locks anything) and returned everything, nothing missing.

3) You know exactly who the tourists are, because they're the people you don't recognize in the store. See #2: you know where everyone lives.

Speaking of the store, if you want to see some photos of our one and only provide-all supermarket, here's Svalbardbutikken (click on the links near each photo for real photos). Fancy! Bankruptingly expensive!

4) Everyone is an adventurous, outdoorsy, independent spirit surviving in the high north while simultaneously being part of a space-and-time-bending gossip network. You know stories about people you've never even seen.

5) You wear the same clothes every day. No one cares.

6) My internet thinks I live in Tromso, due to our insane submarine fiber-optic cable connection to the mainland.

7) They put cucumbers in "Mexican" food. No.

8) The sled dogs probably won't kill you, unlike most Canadian and Greenlandic sled dogs, which definitely will.


Last week (or so...) my friend Christiane volunteered for a day to take over a friend's job feeding some else's sled dogs. She invited me along so we could have fun running them around and remember what its like to have pets and animals you're allowed to touch.

The kennels:

We had to feed four dogs, two males and two females, all of whose names I've forgotten. After they were done we were going to take them out and run them around the yard. These animals are ridiculously strong and full of energy. And poop. Which we would also clean up later.

Preparing food:

Other food options, for other dogs:

Hunting is legal here with a license for certain species within certain areas. Seals make great dog food. The kennels are run sort of like a barn - people can rent spaces for their dogs to stay. Svalbard is fairly strict about animal control, in terms of introduced species. The dogs around here aren't allowed free rein. In the past, there have been problems with packs of dogs forming and hunting reindeer and causing significant havoc. Actually, around here cats are considered more dangerous than dogs. Cats are completely illegal on Svalbard, for any purpose. Apparently they destroy some of the local bird and small-mammal populations if they get loose. So there's very few pets in Svalbard, and its been a long time since I've seen a cat.

Here's a bunch of photos of Christiane and I playing with the dogs:



All in all...thanks Christiane for a super time! Sometimes I forget how much I miss having pets (I had about a million at home).

In more recent news, crazy weather continues. The temperature has dropped again for a few more weeks it looks like, and we've had a LOT of snowfall recently - which I here is quite bizarre for this time of year, especially since one would not expect to see such precipitation in an Arctic desert.

Here's some beautiful snow swirls in some powerful winds, that really has to be seen to be properly appreciated - the flying snow looks like a river:

Life has been busy and stressful recently. Partially this is because of an increase in work after our monthly sampling, which is starting to calm down. Next week is spring break for UNIS, which hadn't really occured to me, since technically every day is spring break in my life!

Mikko and Henrik waiting for our boat to start before sampling:

Its not so often that I actually get cold out here, but that was one of the most painfully cold experiences I've had here. Not that it was all that cold that day, but the boots on those suits are atrocious and my feet froze.

Last little brother is coming to visit! I am unspeakably excited about this. Probably everyone here already knows that, since I bring it up about every five minutes.

Little is a relative term.

That was taken the last time I saw him in July...a few days before I left for the Arctic.

Oh California.


Unknown said...

Those dogs are amazing! And hooray for your little brother!

Anonymous said...

I've been out to those kennels to feed those dogs!! Not for a few years, though.

I'm going to India in a few weeks. I know I was invited up to visit you, but I decided to opt for oppressive heat this time around. And to Egypt from there... will good to be back on the road...

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurel, this is Laura Kerber. Very nice blog you have here! I actually just met this guy, a french climate modeler actually, who trekked across Svalbard, he's the first person I'd ever met who'd been there. And lo, only a week thereafter, I read this journal. He also went adventuring in Greenland, attempting to be the first expedition to cross Greenland length-wise in some specified length of time. They were traveling on skies and propelled by kites, but the weather was fantastic and therefore there was not enough wind and they didn't travel fast enough and they ran out of supplies. alas.
Sounds like you're having fun, good luck and good wishes for everything!! :D

Christiane MB said...

Yey, you put up the pictures!! In case you wanna know; the dogs names are Nuka (the nugat-coloured one), Credo, Chimcha (the crazy female) and Stroka (the biggest one of the males). I love the honesty and everbody-knows-everybody-thing in this little community - I think that's one of the things that make living up here so great :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Laurel
Your blog really helped with my geography homework.
Svalbard looks a really great place and I would love to go there as long as I didn't get cold feet!!