In 2009 I took part in a glaciology course at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), as a PhD student. Svalbard I found, was a place like no other, not quite witches and armoured bears but magical none the less. I found, like many lucky enough to visit, that once here it was very difficult to leave. I began plotting a more permanent return and finally the time has come. Later this month I will move to Longyearbyen in Svalbard to take up a two-year Marie Curie Research Fellowship. I will be based at UNIS, with research sites on Svalbard and in the Himalayas of Nepal.
Svalbard is a group of islands located between 74° and 81° north, and only 1300 km from the North Pole. This can make things decidedly chilly, average winter temperatures are around -15° C but temperatures below -30° C are not uncommon. In summer it does warm up a bit with an average of 6-8° C in July and August! This does mean the opportunities for a glaciologist on Svalbard are boundless, around 60% of the main island Spitsbergen is ice-covered. Another effect of the northerly location is the sun or lack of it during winter. The sun sets in late-October and doesn’t rise again until mid-February. However from the end of April until the end of August there is 24 hours of daylight, many people living here cover their bedroom windows with foil to get some sleep.