Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic
Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic

Reflection, Company Life, Polar Day & Evacuation

This is going to be the last blog post on my internship while I’m still in it. The next one will be a last reflection note on the whole internship from a retrospection.

Evacuation – snow – sun

So, I finally will try to answer one of the questions I consider the most important. Who am I now in context of the company Polar Permaculture?

I definitely feel like a part of it. At first as a reliable assistance with different working processes. Second, I feel being entrusted with working out a plan for a better Permaculture in Adventdalen in cooperation with Svalbard Husky, which I believe is a great task for me to incorporate the knowledge from my previous study semesters in Geoecology. And third, I feel a good amount of mutual respect with my colleagues building up during the last weeks. – the project itself, of growing plants in the arctic environment, is such a great idea. But until now, I’m not convinced by its implementation in Longyearbyen. I’m very thankful to be involved in that company on such a level, to learn in general, how companies work or how they don’t work. And I learn to accept some conditions that are hard to change and to just try to make the best out of it.

The difference between the employee culture and the student culture is maybe, that my one colleague and I as a student are more aware of our rights within the company. Due to the fact that all the people are rather from the same generation in their 20ties, it is easy for me to connect.

A mid-term evaluation meeting was very helpful as I could and would 1st think about and 2nd voice situations worth an improvement. Upon my request, an office day has been introduced. I asked for it, due to my increasing difficulty to work on the research project (course AB-207) and not to forget about my tasks for the Permaculture. I would almost always decide to work for the research project. Therefore, this office day turns out to be very helpful in regard to my motivation, but also with regard to internal communication. Sitting together and each working on their own responsibilities improved the exchange and therefore also the incentive to finally start researching on the plan I’m in charge for now.

2 short updates on the situation in Longyearbyen – since the 20th of April now, there is Polar day, with the sun not yet all day visible, as the sun is either covered by an enormous amount of clouds or by mountains. But nights disappeared from existence already some weeks ago as the sun was below the horizon by less than 6 degrees and thus lit the sky even during the night. I’m lucky not having a lot of problems sleeping, but it is a very common struggle up here.

The second part about life up here is certainly somehow connected to climate change, as there was an enormous amount of snow in the former ‘polar desert’. For people living here for longer – they have not seen that amount of snow before… In consequence, avalanche danger was very high during the last weeks and the upper side of Nybyen had to be evacuated for three times in a row (kindly put always on weekends). It is built on the slopes of Gruvefjellet with until 7 m high cones building up  due to snowfall and strong winds and the local governor evaluated the risk repeatedly to decide now to move the students (my Brakke included) permanently to the city.  – I really wanted to share this story with you, as I am able to experience the increase of extreme events (like heavy snow fall), connected to climate change in this vulnerable place of the arctic at first hand!

Oh, and Svalbard is vaccinating the whole island, including all the students during the next weeks – I don’t know what to make of it. I feel the social pressure on getting vaccinated is so big, and so well fed with humanitarian arguments, that it feels very dangerous.

But the most important thing is still:

Stay sane, stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy the sun 😊