Three winning teams: Eliza and Kacper from Poland, Judith, Jordi, Javier and Alfonso from Spain spent some amazing time at the Polish Polar Station in Hornsund, Svalbard. They all agreed that it was a life changing experience.
If you want to go to Spitsbergen, you should visit Longyearbyen. There you can sleep in Coal Miners Hotel and explore local curiosities such as the Natural History and Archeology museum and even something more creepy - the (in)famous cemetery with the Spanish flu germs well preserved in permafrost.
Our winners travelled to the research station on board of a speedboat; where their trip filled with lectures, terrain workshops and lots of hiking began. Of course, they had to begin with getting familiar with safety rules and meet Station staff, who were extremely friendly and helpful.
It was a unique opportunity to hear a lecture by professor Jacek Jania from the University of Silesia, who presented Svalbard glaciers, their evolution and environmental impact. However, being on Svalbard allowed the group to compare their theoretical knowledge with actual glaciers. They went on an unforgettable trip through the moraine to the edge of the Hansbreen glacier and to the Wilczekodden peninsula.
On their trip the group had an opportunity to see and touch various equipment like auto-sampler and meteorological station, and get a closer look at some measurements carried out on site for example salt flow, atmospheric electricity and air pollution measurements, thermal ground measurements, hydrogeological measurements of the groundwater table and snow cover measurements.
The winners turned out to be really adventurous! Nothing was too challenging for them: neither swimming close to the Korberbreen glacier (in the background the third highest peak of Svalbard – Hornsundtind) in Helly Hansen suits, nor sailing under the Muhlbacherbreen and Peierlbreen glaciers. Their bravery was awarded: they admired whales and experienced calving of a glacier!
The landscape is undoubtedly awe-inspiring. The expedition group admired frost forms in Revdalen valley: polygonal soils, frost wedges, palsa and tuffs. They also observed but did not taste - watermelon snow (pink snow).
Even though occasionally interrupted by a little too close presence of polar bears in the area (safety first!), the group managed to walk around Fuglebergsletta to the colony of auks (already deserted) and collect hydrochemical samples from Fuglebekken.
Even those brief moments inside the station where full of fun: board games, movies and getting to know each other. There was a special “Spanish night” organized for the staff, and obviously presentation of scientific projects that led our winners to the Arctic.
The expedition group made some new friends and were more than happy to take advantage of the hospitality of the University of Wrocław “Baranówka” station. Apart from funny games, enjoying delicious, traditional polish potato pancakes and meeting a reindeer (and two polar bears – from a distance) it was an opportunity to visit Hyttevik trapper’s hut, observe abrasion processes, sea cliffs and admire one of the first sunsets after a polar day.
It was definitely worth a 17 km walk one way!
The group had an opportunity to observe and participate in many laboratory and terrain activities like for example real-life mass balance measurement lesson on observing hydrological systems of the glacier and many more.
One of the most amazing moments was entering ice cave in Hans glacier. „This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen” said Judith. We cannot disagree.
„Polar baptism” was a peculiar crowning of the trip
The crew on the Eltanin yacht had a rough time transporting the group back to Longyearbyen because of really difficult weather.
Obviously, Hornsund was as upset to say farewell to our winners as they were leaving.
Something tells us they will be back! As polar researchers. Arctic can be highly addictive.