Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bare Facts

We have just returned to Longyearbyen from our sail aboard the S/V Antigua, a barkentine (tall ship with three masts and square sails on the foremast).

More detailed posts about our adventures will follow, but first, here are a few fun facts...

1. Our two expedition guides/polar bear guards were women. They are thinking of forming a band called Girls with Guns.
2. The coldest temperature we worked in outside was -20 C (not including wind chill!). The warmest temperature was +3 C.
3. Our farthest north was N 80°00', E 14°27'.
4. Animal sightings: grazing reindeer, playful walruses, frolicking seals, fossilized brachiopods, one distant polar bear, and fox prints everywhere (but no fox).
5. Birds were felt mostly by their absence. A few hardy species remained for our viewing pleasure every day. One purple-sandpiper even peeped for the microphone.
6. Despite the cold and snow cover, plant life was plentiful, though small and often Dr. Seussean. You just had to look for it. 
7. Ghost towns, shipwrecks, old trapper huts, and research stations: one each.
8. Mines visited: coal, gypsum and marble. None currently in operation.
9. Ice forms observed: broad calving glaciers, beached bar ice, pancake and brash ice, grease ice, and bergy bits.
10. The last few days we had 4-hour-long sunrises directly followed by 4-hour-long sunsets. As of today we are losing about 1/2 hour of sun each day. On October 26th the sun will set for the winter here.

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