Around Spitsbergen in 80 days

Around Spitsbergen in 80 days

Top image: The Frozen Five just before take-off from UNIS (from left): Lucas Girard, Hella Garny, Kim Senger, Mats Björkman and Ulli Neumann. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

The five former UNIS students started their ski trip from Longyearbyen to South Cape after lunch today. The five, accompanied by four sledges and a dog, will then go from the South Cape all the way to the North Cape of Spitsbergen before returning to Longyearbyen.

29 March 2007
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen

The five, Kim Senger (Czech Republic), Hella Garny and Ulli Neumann (Germany), Lucas Girard (France), and Mats Björkman (Sweden), all met while they were studying at UNIS in 2005. As most UNIS-students they went on many field trips, and discovered Svalbard and enjoyed the Arctic outdoors together. After they left UNIS, they thought; why not try to join up again for one more trip? The idea was born, only meticulous planning remained.

A bit more than just skiing
The trip has been planned for the last 18 months, and the project has been growing since the idea was born.

– It has become a snowball that kept on rolling and growing, said Mats just minutes before take-off.  – Especially since the trip has become an official part of the New Zealand Youth Steering Committee for the International Polar Year (IPY), he said. This partnership is thanks to Kim, who has been studying at New Zealand.

The trip has thus become part of the IPY education and outreach projects, where the goal is to educate students all over the world about the Arctic.

– You could say that the trip has become a bit more than just a skiing trip, Lucas added.

Science and nature
In addition to outreach and education, the Frozen Five will aid local scientists by taking snow samples for isotope analysis, gather grouse droppings for a biologist and in general record the weather and snow conditions along the route.

They all drag on up to 80 kg heavy sledges, but they do not have all the food needed for the entire trip with them from day one. They have already put out four depots along their route, so that they don’t have to drag all the food and equipment from the very start. However, the biggest challenge is not the weight, the weather, the snow nor the polar bears.

– The biggest question is whether we will be able to function in such a small group for 80 days, said Hella. Although they are good friends, 80 days in rough conditions could put a strain on anyone.

However, the five are optimistic about the group interaction. And they have good company in the dog André, named after the famous Swedish scientist. – I hope this trip goes better than the last trip of the other André, Mats said jokingly before he started to strap on his skies.

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