What’s a Research Station like?!

Good evening everyone – hope you’re working on that Friday feeling! For Anna and I up in Finse, Saturday will be just another working day, so Friday is just another run-of-the-mill evening (although I’ve allowed myself a double-ration of two cans of beer…!).

When thinking about what to write in this latest blog, I thought I’d give an insight into what life is like at Finse and the routine of doing glacier fieldwork. I’ve had a few text messages and emails from friends asking “What’s the hut like? Is it freezing?!!” So, I thought I’d answer some of those questions here and give you all a bit of an inside perspective.

Is the hut freezing? Simply put – no! Finse Alpine Research Centre is very warm. Furthermore, it’s a bit more substantial than a ‘hut’! Actually, the fact that Anna and I are the only people staying in it makes it feel a bit cavernous. There is a well-appointed kitchen, an electrics workshop, a computer suite, a laundry room, various research labs… even a sauna! So everything is very comfortable here. In fact, all of the research stations I’ve ever visited – Sverdrup Station in Svalbard, Tarfala in northern Sweden – all serve to make fieldwork as pleasant as possible. And just to prove the point, here’s Anna looking nice and relaxed after a chilli which she put together for dinner.

Anna relaxing after a chilli.
Anna relaxing after a chilli.

Finse itself is a very small town, that is only accessible in winter by train. However, tomorrow it will have a population explosion as between 5000-10000 skiers will arrive to compete in the Skarvarennet, which I understand is Norway’s ski-equivalent of the London marathon. I’m quite looking forward to the show, although it might be difficult to navigate the snowmobile around thousands of skiers…!

Our day in Finse normally kicks off at 7:30, and we’re usually off to the glacier around 9. The snowmobile journey to Midtdalsbreen takes about 10 minutes, depending on which bit of the glacier we’re working on. We eat lunch on the glacier, and are usually back before 6 pm; by this time, batteries are drained (both those in the equipment, and our own!), even though it’s technically light enough outside to carry on working if we wanted to (or could!). Although work so far has gone brilliantly, today was a bit frustrating as a bit of our equipment seems to have developed a fault. Still – that’s life, and it doesn’t mean the radar survey is over.  We cracked on today, digging a snow-pit to calibrate our radar data for snow-depth. It’s times like this where the glorious weather this spring is actually a bit of a curse, as it’s seriously warm work digging through snow.  Hauling the GPR across the snow is also tiring, but I’d take this over digging any day!

In the begging, and by the end! Our snow pit evolves into a 2 m deep hole, in which a totally tropical Anna cools down. Note: the hole was filled in once we’d done with it, to avoid trapping any skiers!

Finally, while fieldwork can be laborious, it’s often good fun too. Among the things that Finse is famous for is a starring role in the Star Wars “Empire Strikes Back” movie, as the backdrop to the Battle of Hoth. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I couldn’t help but try to recreate some of the key scenes from the movie… Sorry, just couldn’t resist…!

My Star Wars tribute on Midtdalsbreen...!
My Star Wars tribute on Midtdalsbreen…!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you next time – have a great weekend.

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