Status Report

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Keeping Watch – 12 August 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
August 22, 2006
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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report:  Keeping Watch – 12 August 2006


The polar bear watch was in full swing this morning. At first it was believed the polar bear had moved on farther down the fjord because it was no longer visible where it had been the night before. The crewmen thought it had perhaps wandered just out of sight and taken a rest again, so a scouting boat went in closer for a look. While the scout was on, we weren’t allowed to leave the boat, so we worked onboard analyzing our samples from the previous days. The scouts returned just before lunch reporting they hadn’t seen the polar bear.

In the meantime, a tourist cruise ship had pulled up near us in the fjord presumably for the passengers to get a chance to see the polar bear and to go on shore to see Jotun Hot Springs. They were sending Zodiac after Zodiac to the shore packed with people. Around then, a polar bear was spotted on the opposite shore of the fjord directly across from our ship. It was a safe distance away from the tourists and us and allowed the best chance yet to check out a polar bear! Ivar came around letting everyone know and we all rushed to the bow deck to watch it closely with binoculars and cameras. We cannot be sure if it was the same bear or another one, but they are strong swimmers and it easily could have swam across the fjord overnight.

Through binoculars we could see it meandering down the coastline, up and over gullies toward the glacial moraine at the far end of the fjord. It sure is a big, lumbering animal. Even though it looked like it was walking slowly for its size, it covered distance quickly. I watched it for a while until it became too hard to see with the naked eye.

After lunch the polar bear, or Isbjørn as it is called in Norwegian, was across the fjord away from our field site and the safety guys decided it would be okay for science groups to visit field sites. One group headed up to the top of Sverrefjell volcano, a hefty hike, and the other headed to Jotun Springs. They only had a few hours to hike around and return for dinner so no instruments were deployed, but people went prepared to collect more samples. We sent Paul out on the volcano hike armed with purple nitrile gloves, a sterilized chisel and clean aluminum foil. Hopefully he’ll return with some beautiful olivine-rich rocks!

I opted to stay on the ship this afternoon to catch up on sample analysis and my blogging! The weather became gorgeous just as everyone was leaving and I have been enjoying the blue sky and bright sun from the main deck of the Lance.

After dinner the newbies to AMASE, myself included, sang a little song we wrote for the veterans called Hotel Pyramiden. Sung to the tune of Hotel California, we rewrote the lyrics to describe a visit to Pyramiden that included as many crew jokes such as “unlegal cotton underwear” as we could muster. Our song produced much laughter as we had hoped and us newbies were officially inducted into the AMASE ranks. Working together on our science projects is so much more efficient when we can have fun together on a personal level after work.

Kirsten Fristad
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About Kirsten Fristad in her own words…

My name is Kirsten Fristad. I am a budding planetary scientist working in the highly talented Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) Lab at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. I graduated from Macalester College in 2005 with a major in geology and core in astronomy knowing I wanted to pursue a research career in planetary science. Through summer internships with several planetary scientists, I developed a background in analyzing martian and lunar planetary remote sensing data and Mars analog field work in Alaska. Since starting at Goddard in May, I have been organizing the Goddard/SAM Team contribution to AMASE 2006. I will continue working in the SAM lab until fall 2007 when I will commence graduate studies in a yet to be decided location to pursue a PhD in planetary science.

Before starting at Goddard in May 2006, I worked and traveled around Australia, coached high school hurdlers, and pondered the mysteries of the universe. Aside from pondering, I love to laugh, dance, listen to music from the ’80s, and travel to remote locations. I’m really hoping I can make a career of this expedition thing.

SpaceRef staff editor.