50 plus years of preparation? Maybe we can say it like that. Seems like everything we have done in our lives, up until now, has prepared us in one way or another for this life at the “edge”. All of our skills developed and experiences gained over time that is necessary to be here at Bamsebu right now. This is, without a doubt, a once in a lifetime experience and we know it!
The time to prepare directly for this overwintering has been enormous, especially the last year. The 12-14 months pre-Bamsebu were insanely busy. There was so much that needed to be put in place. The entire “Hearts in the Ice” platform! Late nights, early mornings and long work weekends were consumed with planning – all of this on top of both holding fulltime jobs. We won’t go into all of the details, suffice it to say, it involved millions of emails, phone calls, highs and lows – yes’s and no’s, logistics planning, visioning and communication with a network of people that ran across all time zones. We were knackered!
Our goal was lofty but timely. We wanted to build a platform that included science partners that realized the value of our citizen science contribution from our remote location and time frame of 9 months. We wanted to engage the school kids from around the world and needed to figure out how to do that from a place that had no internet or connectivity. And we wanted to create a website and platform to engage all global citizens around climate change issues and inspire change and action through positive engagement and stories. This takes time and every second has been worth it!
And then suddenly September 13th 2019 was here! The day of our departure from Longyearbyen. No more planning for the future – it was here.
Time onboard the M/S Nordstjernen with family, friends, science partners and sponsors was so enriching, fun and overwhelming. And then, as fast as embarkation day came, the ship pulled out and away from the Van Keulenfjord.
We were alone. In a place. Where time. Stood. Still.
We were alone. Ettra. Sunniva. Hilde. Bamsebu. Nature. Mother Nature.
It took time to fully land here. It took a little longer for Sunniva. Squamish to Svalbard – there are just a few itty bitty differences. More on that later. Before too long we carved out new routines. We went from hectic, busy lives full of external distractions en-masse to a life… a life of peace, solitude, new sounds, new responsibilities, new sights and renewed purpose. Where we are at 78 degrees north our distractions are the sort that take your breath away and ask you to stop and stare, or: to slow down and take time to be deliberate, meaningful and safe.
Everything we do here takes time. We have packed our patience, our smiles and good spirits. For example: time to collect and chop enough firewood. Time for “Bamsebu” to be warm inside after firing up the wood burning stove after a very cold night. Time for the water to boil for hot tea and coffee. Time to prepare and cook food. Time to take care of the fresh and frozen food we have. Time to get ice, melt it for water. Time to collect salt water samples. Time to capture the aurora. Time to capture clouds. Time to fly the drone when there is no wind. Time to observe, time to be still. Time for polar bear checks – look left, look right, forwards and back when we walk outside. And time to download emails when we turn on the satellite!
We have consciously decided to hold ourselves accountable to deliverables for science, education and inspiration. Despite this, everything we do at this point is dictated by the cold, the wind, snow, sea/ice conditions and the dark polar night which is 24/7. This means Mother Nature herself! Mother Nature holds her own stress for us but there is nothing we can do about it…just be present, be ready and be mindful!
Primary needs – shelter, food, safety, warmth, sleep and physical and mental health are priorities for us. We are after all surviving here and our day to day requires that above all else. So, where is the stress? There is none! We have no external stressors except those that we impose.
Things that take extra time for us that we would otherwise never think about at home, give us pause and time to reflect. What a luxury self-reflection is. When was the last time you celebrated your last two potatoes or last limpy carrot? Only to cook them up with your recently (legally) hunted reindeer, brown sauce and surkaal. What could be better? There is so much gratitude in the small things. Stopping and taking time to self-reflect and be grateful for what is!
We might get a resupply of fresh and frozen goods from Eurosuppply in the next week and we might not. Ice conditions are such that we cannot get our boat out to meet the Bring cargo ship, Norbjørn, so our expectations need to be tempered. We will not spend time hoping.
Right now we are spending time waiting for a Nasa rocket launch. We have been on “standby” since Nov 25th every morning from 9am until notice. We the “Bamsebu Babes” (what we call ourselves after 78 days without a shower) are officially “rocket citizen scientists!” Right now rockets from Ny Ålesund og Andøya are to be launched to learn more about the rare cusp aurora. While scientists often study the auroras that appear at night, auroras occur all the time. Some take place on the dayside of the planet, in polar areas called “cusps.” The cusps are entry points in the Earth’s magnetosphere near the north and south poles that funnel solar wind particles in and leaking atmospheric particles out. Read more about this here.
In our regular every day we are all fighting with time. Against the clock. Deliverables. Meetings. Promises. Deadlines and expectations. Stress. We can manage everything but for a price. And now as Christmas is near with cards, gifts, xmas parties, too much food, too much shopping, too much money spent, too much output? All we want to do is to encourage you to stop! Stop for a minute, for you. Stop and listen to the sound of nothing if you can. That might be the best gift to give yourself!
Both of us have had expectations around how we might spend the time here during the 9 months. Would we learn to play the ukulele, write a book, read many books, paint, photograph? Our day, like yours has 24 hours and it is all about priorities so what will we prioritize, what will you prioritize?
Don’t wait for that New Years resolution to start something – start it now. We are right there with you!
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I hope that you both will be able to take something from this solitude, this simpler way of living and be able to apply this back to your lives when you return from Bamsebu! I can only imagine how somewhat strange this new way of living must be? Continued enjoyment of this simpler life, still, I am sure, full of interesting experiences, experiments and observations! Look forward to all your reports, also wondering what you favorite song is that you are dancing to now? ?????