Spitsbergen Expedition 2011: Day 1

For the next two weeks, 2011 Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum will be leading an expedition to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, continuing the work that has yielded many spectacular fossils through the years (Giant “Sea Monster” Fossil Discovered). Follow the expedition here on Nat Geo NewsWatch.


Day 1

The mountain Janusfjellet, where we will put up the camp, is not very far from Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen. We were able to boat to the site, however there was more ice on the fjord (Isfjorden) than normal, so we had to be rather careful.

The boat makes its way through the icy fjord. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.
Arriving at Janusfjellet mountain, where the team will set up camp. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

The digging equipment, camp gear, and food were transported by helicopter, but fog threatened to make landing too dangerous to attempt. Luckily, the fog disappeared at lunch time and the delivery was made successfully.

Before leaving Longyearbyen several people warned us that due to all the ice in the fjord, there were many polar bears around. When setting up camp therefore, we put the sleeping tents close together, and around them set up a wire connected to an alarm, to wake us up in the night if for instance a polar bear is coming too close to the tents. The tents with the food and where we eat is set up a good distance from the sleeping tents (where NO food should be stored), and secured separately.

The large white supply tents (at right) are positioned a good distance from the green and red tents where the team members will sleep. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

In the evening the camp is ready, even the windmill producing electricity is set up, so it is time for a delicious dry-tech meal.

The windmill that will provide electricity for the expedition is set up in the camp. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

It’s been a long day, but instead of going to bed, people start to discuss where to start digging for fossils. The blessing of the midnight sun is that you can easily work the whole night, and we slept last night, so why bother with sleep this night? Let the fun start!

The team is eager to get to work digging. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.
Team members Lene Liebe and Magne Høyberget dust off what could be another new fossil. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.
Jørn Harald Hurum was born in Drammen, a city on southeastern Norway. Since childhood he has collected fossils and minerals in the Oslo region. Since 2000 he has been employed at the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo where he works as an associate professor in vertebrate paleontology. At the University he teaches paleontology and evolutionary biology and supervises masters and Ph.D. students. One recent outreach effort brought him on stage before a general audience interested in his Arctic island project excavating fossils of ancient sea monsters. “There was a four-year-old in the front row and he couldn’t stop asking questions, really good questions” Hurum remembers. “This little boy was so excited to know there was somebody else who understood the things he was wondering about. He made my whole day! As a child, I felt very alone with my interest in fossils. Finally at age 13, I discovered there was a museum in Norway that actually employed people to study paleontology. I started corresponding with those scientists and it was such a relief, such an inspiration. I hope I can give some of that spirit back to the next generation.” Learn More About Jørn and His Work
  • Harold Pabunan

    Interesting expedition, hope you find early human settlers not only animals

  • Bjørn

    Have you seen any polar bears yet?

  • Frank Næss

    Heard about some gruesome polar bear attack at Von Postbreen in Tempelfjorden, killing one person and injuring several more. Hope you’re safe up there!

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