International Office - Aberystwyth University

Arctic Life 78° North; aka Land of the Polar Bears: Journey to the Arctic body


To introduce myself, I am a student at Aberystwyth University studying Physics with Planetary and Space Physics (Bit of a mouthful I know!). At present, I have recently arrived in Longyearbyen, Svalbard for the second semester of my Masters year. It is here I will complete my physics Master’s Degree! At the University Centre in Svalbard I will be undertaking two modules; The Upper Polar Atmosphere, and Radar Diagnostics of Space Plasmas. I will be writing blogs about my time here in Svalbard, and posting many pictures and a video along with each blog of all the exciting things we get up to!

Take off 

Getting here was a long-winded journey, as Svalbard is located 78° North within the Arctic Circle. I started my journey in my hometown, Bromsgrove, and travelled to Heathrow airport where I met the rest of the gang (bar brad who we were to later meet in Oslo), Chris, Elliot, Emma, Brandon and Gabriele. Lots of tears were cried (mainly from my mum) as we said our goodbyes and headed on our way! From Heathrow we flew to Stockholm, where we were to spend 6 and a half hours waiting for our next flight overnight, and discover the ridiculous price of toblerones; £8 a toblerone!! (Brandon Kelly 2017). Attempting to sleep on the floor was very unsuccessful, however a few of us managed to get an odd ten minutes here and there, and we had a new member join our sleeping group (not a clue who, she just appeared). After a loooong night in Stockholm, we flew to Oslo, where we discovered the price of toblerones had increased even more to £13 a toblerone!

Landing in…

The final leg of our journey was then to fly to Longyearbyen via Tromsø, however, on route to Tromsø a passenger fell ill, subsequently the plane had to land in Bodø, which had a silver lining as the views when landing and taking off were absolutely stunning. Long story short, we arrived in Longyearbyen 3 and a half hours late, making total travel time 20 hours with 5 take offs and 5 landings! At present, Svalbard is in its Polar night season, where the sun does not rise from late October to mid-February, so its pitch black all the time! This will then reverse in April when the sun will not set at all until late August (Midnight sun).

A bus picked us up from the airport and dropped us near our student housing in Nybyen, where I had the thrilling task of lugging my two 23kg suitcase through the snow, up a hill and into the accommodation. If we were not already super tired by now, due to the grocery store having shortened hours, and us running on zero food, we had to dump our belongings and head straight to the store – a 30 minute walk through the snow! The town was beautiful, like a winter wonderland, covered in snow, surrounded by mountains and illuminated by lights. This was soon forgotten on the gruelling walk back to Nybyen with all of our shopping! I was not cold in the slightest, I was sweating bucket loads! I thought I was in the Arctic??!! Getting into my bed (once it was finally made and I was unpacked) was a God sent!

New Home… 


The following morning, after a much needed night sleep, we had another walk into the town, to the shop and to UNIS. This time I removed a layer, and then even had to take off one of my coats I got so warm walking, turns out the Arctic isn’t as cold as Morrison’s freezer! The temperature currently is around -7°C, which is actually quite a bit warmer than normal for this time of year. But before I start getting my shorts on, it is supposed to be dropping to around -14°C over the coming days. It seems so unreal that we are finally here, after months, even years, waiting for this opportunity, but now that we are here, it is already better than expected, and I am so excited to spend the next 5 months here, exploring, learning, and meeting all the wonderful people that love and study here!

Faint Aurora

Now settled, revision for our two exams is well underway and our Arctic survival course starts on Monday!

Just before submitting this blog, we got to see some very faint aurora, but aurora nonetheless! So out with our cameras we went to see what we could capture!

Ser deg seinare!



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