Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom – Viktor Frankl

From our tiny trappers cabin “Bamsebu” a storm is whipping around us with violent winds and snowdrifts making it extremely difficult to get outside. We are stuck inside but it’s only temporary. The wind will shift, die down and we will shovel our way out. We have been here for almost 7 months and have been keen observers to the shifts of change and have adapted, found ways to move with it, always expecting the unexpected.

Some changes are subtle – like clouds forming. Some are strong indicators of a changing climate and how things adapt – like a polar bear hunting and killing a reindeer for its food source instead of a seal – its normal food.

You are all in a very different sort of storm – an unimaginable one from where we sit.
Your storm was completely unexpected. Many are likely feeling alone, isolated, ill-prepared, frustrated, depressed and scared. We are sending all of you our thoughts, love and a few things we have learned from being here. We have been living in self-imposed isolation in the same place, with the same person with no outside stimulus other than the day and night sky, wildlife and mother nature’s bounty! While this is not to compare or take away the hardship many are now faced with, we simply wanted to offer our thoughts on how we have survived and thrived here.

Last month the Norwegian TV station NRK showed what they call “Slow tv” with its 9-day 24/7 minute by minute sail around Svalbard. It was a resounding success. To take it in you had to sit down, slow down and let the video footage and interviews wrap around your eyes, heart, stir your curiosity and ignite your imagination. If you watched it – you would have absolutely fallen in love with the magic of Svalbard, as we both have.

Welcome to our small world at Bamsebu. Here we have been living “slow” for over 6 months. The concept of anything “slow” in this day of rapid change and seeming ability to have exactly what we need the instant we think about it is compelling. Handwritten letters come to mind as something that brings great joy and inspires a slower pace. We have had date stamped notes (do not dare open until…) given to us before we left from friends and family that have been a life force for us here.
We have not taken a train, bus or plane anywhere for over 6 months. The only way we have travelled for our citizen science work is by foot, boat and Lynx snowmobile. We have not shopped for groceries, not bought a single thing. We have not paid any electric bills, all of our energy is from solar and wind. Our heat source is chopped from the Siberian driftwood that dot the frozen shorelines.
We have not used any piped water – ours comes from the ice & snow that we collect and melt. This is our drinking, cooking and cleaning water.
We have not had any visitors except for a 2-hour helicopter visit from the pastor in Svalbard, early December.

We are alone, isolated, remote and without access (limited email) to any of our regular habitual resources we were used to back home in Squamish and Longyearbyen.
We choose to be here. It was a choice that we made to ignite action and engagement around a natural world that needs us all right now. The very kernel, the “red thread” of our Hearts is the Ice project is about global connectivity around a climate crisis we have known about for decades, but perhaps didn’t quite grasp or fully understand the severity.

Human crisis like this Corona virus and climate crisis walk hand in hand. Our entire world is interconnected – everything in the ocean, sky, on land is all connected in one small way or another. The choices we make are key right now. This is not about you. This is not about Sunniva or Hilde. This challenge and crisis is about all of us.
The alarm bells went off long ago around climate change and its economic, human and species impact. There is a way forward but it involves all humans collectively and in community sharing our resources, wisdom and caring for each other. Change never happens overnight but it does always start with us.

What if this imposed isolation around Covid-19 gives us all the small chance to come out stronger, more connected and loving to each other, more informed, kinder and with greater awareness around our habits and how we engage day to day? Everything is possible if we are willing, able to be vulnerable and open to accepting guidance from the experts.

We now know, after close to 7 months of being here voluntarily, how challenging it is to be isolated with only one person 24/7. It takes a ton of, at times, painful self-awareness, buckets of patience, kindness and love to make the best of every tough situation day after day.
We have been alone but we have had tools to use from our experts like mental coaches, personal trainers, tech experts etc.

We offer a few thoughts on what we have learned from living tight and isolated in hopes that an idea or a word or two inspires hopefulness, a renewed sense of purpose and maybe even some calm in this collective storm.
We’ll call this our Bamsebu Blueprint:


  • Reaching out to tell people how much you care about them, what you are grateful for, what you like – tell them! Call them. Show you care.
  • Writing letters or postcards regardless of how long it might take to get to its destination.
  • Talking to each other to work things out – “Let the train pass” when you feel like reacting. Listen. Be clear. Be kind.
  • We have limited email/data ability here – we read, listen to music, have paint supplies, a ukulele, we write, have card games, football-soccer ball.
  • Citizen science projects have been a way for us to connect with scientists/people from around the world and encourages learning new things – finding ways to be of service to a neighbour, a project, community gives us all purpose and gives us meaning that matters.
  • The world outside Bamsebu is amazing. We spend a lot of time outside connected to the elements – it does wonders. Get outside – walk, talk and play.

Problem- solving:

  • When something breaks or stops working – we try to use our patience to find ways to fix it with what we have.
  • We have no one to call to come and repair a boat engine or a door. When we break or spill something it’s not worth getting irritated – it’s just a “thing”.
  • When we do something that provokes the other we work to set our egos aside and take time to talk or cry it out. We come from a place of love, fondness and deep mutual respect for each other so we try to show that even when our 5-year old self shows up.
  • Adaptability is key here – change is constant. We reach out to our experts when we need guidance or help-we all need each other. We have Carina, Kit, Steinar, Bettina, close family/friends.


  • We eat everything we make – no waste. We have run out of fresh fruit/vegetables so it requires creativity and time to make a special meal, but we do it! We always light a candle and eat our meals together.
  • We have no access to a store here – food lasts a lot longer than the date stamp. Our eggs have lasted from October b/c we keep them cold and turn them every week just like the trapper Wanny Woldstad did back in the 1930’s.
  • We had onions, cabbage, garlic, apples that were about to spoil so we peeled and froze everything.
  • We treat ourselves to a healthy smoothie of kale/beet/almond/berry powder (thanks to TT), dates (GoodFullstop), frozen fruits, chia, flax and milk.
  • We have been living non-stop in our long underwear with holes that we mend. We have not shopped for anything. Shop for something new in your closet – we do that with extra clothes tucked away when we want fresh long underwear.


  • We both like massage, face masks, pedicures, salt scrubs, training, washing our hair, so we help each other when we need it. We have a “spa” day – all about self-care which boosts our morale, is fun and breeds self-respect.
  • We train 6 days/week in a very small space with TA2 bands (Train Anywhere Anytime) with video coaching from experts Annick/James Grage. Get a workout buddy (even virtual), make a goal – lose weight, get stronger. We have not been sick at all – we all need to stay strong!
  • We get out for walks every single day with Ettra. We keep a routine with our drone flying, cloud/aurora observation, ice core sampling.


  • Use what you have – share with those that don’t. Sunniva lost her favourite knife – Hilde gave up hers as a gift. Hilde’s long underwear all had holes and Sunniva gave her a fresh set.
  • Infuse each other with care, love and small gestures.
  • Use self-reflection for writing and let your creative work materialise.
  • Identify ways to change habits that don’t serve the bigger picture. Test yourself.
  • Reuse. Recycle. Find the hidden treasures in a box, closet or your storage shed.

It will likely be extremely difficult for all of you to adapt and navigate this unknown territory that is forced upon us at this time.
The impact of working at home, being quarantined, lack of access to regular services like activity centres for kids, movie theatres, gyms, schools and being together isolated, perhaps jobless with foundations shaking to their core could give us a renewed sense of purpose and serve to anchor the very reason we are all here.
To love each other, to problem solve together and to be of service for the greater good.

We are all in this together and for that we will be stronger.

Love from Sunniva, Hilde and Ettra

Ps…the Chinese symbol for crisis = Danger + Opportunity!

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