We arrived at Longyearbyen at about 14:00 yesterday with only a single suitcase missing, which fortunately turned up later when the rest of our cargo was located. About half of the expedition arrived on this flight, some with up to 200 kg overweight ;-).
There are two flights into Longyearbyen every day – one at 13:00 and one at 01:00, so slowly the rest of the expedition participants are dropping in. Driving from the airport to the guesthouse we saw reindeers walking around the city, but as of yet, no polar bears nor walruses.
The mountains are absolutely gorgeous and the air here is… very pure – and very cold ;-) The temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius (guessing, even though the wind is somewhat colder) and yesterday we had some small showers, but today the weather is clear and bright revealing the magnificent glacier located behind the guesthouse where we are staying.
Longyearbyen is very, very small – a total of 16 km road on the island is located here where most of the population of Svalbard lives – about 2000 people in Longyearbyen and 3000 on Svalbard in total, compared to ~5000 polar bears ;-) The mountain sides are spotted with coalmines which are the traditional livelihood of Svalbard, and also most of the small statues scattered around the city seems to be focused on this subject.
Today we had a sort of introduction-meeting making sure that no body was missing equipment and that everybody had their instruments under control. The dynamics of the group is very relaxed and friendly, and everybody seems to have known each other for years, of course many of the participants were also here last year. Personally I’m trying to help out wherever I can, checking that all the instruments are still functioning after transport, and that no parts are missing.
One of the instruments to be tested on this expedition is a small rover from NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab). The rover is essentially a smaller and improved edition of the current Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which will be able to climb down almost vertical mountain walls. Many of the other instruments on the expedition are in fact connected to this rover and are meant to be implemented as parts of the rover.