Sunday, June 22, 2014

6/22/14 Longyearbyen and First Day at Sea

This morning we headed back to the same airport to board a flight to Svalbard. The flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen will take approximately three hours. The view of Norway was beautiful as we flew over the northern part. I was not prepared for how beautiful Svalbard would be from the plane. I had a seat next to the window and was able to take some pictures of glaciers as we descended.
It was difficult to grasp how we would land anywhere with civilization. All I could see around me were mountains, snow, and glaciers.

And then around a corner was Longyearbyen, a colorful landscape of buildings, snowmobiles and residents nestled in the mountains of Svalbard.
Photograph by Julia Sheldon
We spent the morning visiting the Svalbard Gallery where  art was on display. There was also a fascinating room where you could observe the changes in maps over time of the Archipelago of Svalbard. Next, we visited the Svalbard museum where we were able to view not just the wildlife and environment but also a history of Svalbard which portrayed the trapping and hunting history as well as the culture of the people that chose to live here.
Svalbard Museum
In the afternoon we boarded the ship! We were instantly greeted by the crew as the "Teachers."We settled into our "Teacher" cabin in the staff quarters and quickly made it up to the decks to see the ship leave the dock.
Photograph by Julia Sheldon
The view reminded me of a trip I took to the Badlands as a kid and this was my first taste of how geology's history and impact can be seen anywhere you visit.  Upon leaving Longyearbyen we saw our first wildlife sighting, a rare one we were later told. A pod of Beluga whales was swimming out to sea with us and we spent 30-45 minutes just taking in the sight. They appeared like ghosts under the water.

Photograph by Julia Sheldon

Photograph by Julia Sheldon

Later after dinner, we visited our first glacier, Tunabreen and I used the Theta camera to take some 360 degree photos that you can see here in Google Maps.

Julia and I decided to stay up until midnight to experience our first midnight sun along with a couple other shipmates and we made sure we took our picture to mark the occasion.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

6/21/14 Arrival in Oslo

We arrived in Oslo around 8:20 in the morning. Upon exiting the airport we had a 45 minute bus ride to the city. I first noticed the trees. This landscape is similar to New Hampshire. Very deep green in color, there were fir and birch trees lining the sides of the road. The blasted sections of the road highlighted the rock that had to be carved out in order to create the roads.

The city of Oslo is home to the King and Parliament and we had the chance to see some of the beautiful architecture on our ride from the airport to the hotel. Once at the hotel, we decided to catch up on some needed sleep before our tour of the city. On the tour we visited the famous Vigeland park that displays the life work of Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures were arranged in a way that you felt you were walking through the history of his life and work. A bridge of sculptures let to a fountain that told the story of life and death and then we walked the final steps to the monolith of 121 figures struggling to reach the top.

We also toured the Fram museum where the historic Fram boat is on display and visitors can tour the insides as well as observe the engineering feat that allowed a boat to rise above the ice rather than be crushed when the ice froze.

As a result, I have begun developing my first engineering challenge for students based upon the story of the Fram. I would like them to develop a ship that can withstand the hardships of a trip to the Arctic. I may give a piece of the story to them before the challenge and then complete the story when they have completed their testing. How to test a LEGO boat? I think I will need to come up with a way to squeeze the boat in at the sides. Whether LEGO is the best tool, not sure? The other strategy might be to show the students the arches that were created in the interior of the boat and ask them to think about how arches are used in everyday engineering challenges. A LEGO arch would be a very cool thing to construct and a strong LEGO arch might be even more challenging.

 Across the road from the FRAM museum was the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki Museum. Although we did not have time to go inside, the museum is host to Thor's ships he used to cross the Pacific as well as Easter Island artifacts. Thor wanted to prove that earlier cultures could cross the ocean in simple boats made of reed so he built his own reed boat. If I ever come back When I come back, I will need to come here. Since I was a little girl, I have had a fascination for ancient cultures and exploration. I wanted to be an archaeologist before I became a teacher. Egypt was my first fascination and I managed to get there in college though a Semester at Sea. ...And now I prepare to explore a part of the world I never dreamed possible; following in the footsteps of explorers like Amundsen and Nansen but without the hardships.