|The ice front of the impressive Kongsvegen glacier taken from the flight into Ny Alesund.
I am in Ny Alesund, a small town on the west coast of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Ny Alesund is just a small place, with a population of about 35 during the winter, rising up to around 180 during the summer. At 79ºN it is also the most Northerly permanently inhabited settlement in the world. Until the late nineteen nineties it was further North than the North Magnetic Pole (the latter has been drifting closer the actual pole over the past few decades).
|An arctic fox, as the sun becomes visible in town for the first time in about four month. This picture was actually taken from the dining room. Most mornings the fox jealously watches everybody having their breakfast.
|The town of Ny-Alesund.
|Three of the team; Paula, Jane and Steven, armed to the teeth due to the hazard of polar bears. It is illegal to go outside the limits of town without at least a rifle and a flare gun in the group.
As well as a memorial to Amundsen there are also various memorials to the large number of miners who, over the years, were killed in the local coal mines. In just 12 years of operations around the middle of the twentieth century 71 miners being killed. An explosion in 1963 killed twenty one individuals. As well as stopping mining in the area, this had significant political ramification and the Norwegian Cabinate actually resigned over the affair. There remains a lot of abandoned mining detritus sticking out of the snow in the nearby hills, slowly rotting away. This adds to the desolate atmosphere of the place.
After the mining had all closed down the town changed it purpose, it slowly turned into a research village with fifteen permanent research stations run by ten different countries including Britain. I am working for BAS on the British Station with a team from Aberystwyth University who are mapping the glacial drainage system of on of the local glaciers, but more about the science in a latter blog post.
|A Norwegian lad enjoying some lovely arctic sunshine and good snow a few days ago before some very "Scottish" weather arrived. It looks like great terrain of ski touring