BSES HQ receives expedition field updates weekly so check back every Monday to see what has happened in the week gone by.

Saturday, April 25

Ship ahoy!

Isbjørn head off across the sea ice of Sassenfjorden making for the ship that is frozen into the ice, and then go on to camp on the northern side of the fjord. Polarrev head up Sassendalen towards the east coast. Rype sort rubbish and prepare to move some equipment forward to Elveneset. Still, clear, -12ºc.

Polarrev leaving Base Camp 2 for their journey to the East Coast with Templet in the background.

Isbjorn Diary - by Ash Sethia

Warming fire? Photo Joe Jones
"Set off from Base Camp 2 with the Nordenlight (the yacht frozen into the fjord) in sight. It was a rather balmy -10ºC with the sun out and a clear blue sky. After an enjoyable couple of kilometres to get down to the sea we finally arrived at the shoreline and roped up to cross the sea ice.
Despite the interesting cracking noises beneath us we made it safely to the Nordenlight by late afternoon. The main attraction turned out to be the huskies that were playing around the boat not the hope of a coke and hot meal.
The rest of the afternoon was spent making our way to our own far more opulent accommodation at Kapp Murdoch on foot. We then settled down to a warming fire on the seaside and a good sleep after a 12 km trek."

Friday, April 24

Musical Fires

At the morning 0845 brief by Ade the YEs are informed of their new Fire groups. Trying to provide the YEs with their choice has necessitated that this Base Camp will be divided into 2 phases. This first phase has the popular trek to the East Coast, that most said they wished to do, with the other half of the expedition ‘Adventuring’. On the 3/5/09 the Fires will change again so that the remaining YEs who wanted to go to the East coast can and the YEs who wanted to do Geomorphology or Biology can have some time on their chosen area.

The new Fires are:
Rype; Ade and Jackie.
Isbjørn; Richard, Lucy D, Helen, Herpreet, Fay, Jo, Emily, Christian, Steve, Ash, Jaime W.
Polarrev; Pat, Lucy B, Adrian, Ben, Mark, Jamie L, Sarah, Pippa, James.

At 0900 (well almost on time) the Expedition, in their new Fires, go up Sassendalen to collect the food cache that was left in mid March, all are back by lunchtime. The afternoon is spent moving into their new Fires and tent groups and preparing for their next eight day adventure. Some have a warm wash and change of clothing enjoying the temperature. Lucy D does another round, having checked folk on arrival at Base Camp 1 and before departure, and checks up on feet and other body areas. Still, clear, -12ºc.

Thursday, April 23

Arrival at Base Camp 2

Isbjørn come down Sassendalen. Polarrev come down Deltadalen entering Sassendalen further north than Isbjørn did. Isbjørn arrive at Base Camp 2 a couple of hours before Polarrev. Rype put up the second tentipi, build the snow urinal and plan for the Fires arrival. Still, clear, -14ºc.

Wednesday, April 22

Firing Range

As a precaution and last resort defence against Polar bears, the expedition will carry rifles throughout their time in Svalbard. To allow them to carry these and use them safely, they are fully briefed and practiced on the weapons in Longyearbyen before heading out. Here Joe shows us what he's learned....

This video was filmed on the 4th April just before the expedition left Longearbyen - we will keep dropping in videos and photos to the blog as and when we get them back from the field.


Isbjørn continue their journey and stop where Eskerdalen meets Sassendalen, the slope down is ‘enough’ for their current skiing ability. Polarrev head up Juvdalen and camp on moraines below Duboistoppen. Rype dig out the Base Camp tents, fill in the holes in the snow and move to Base Camp 2 and set up the tents once more. Base Camp 2 is situated at the northern end of Sassendalen, a 4 km wide valley that will feature very much in all their journeys from Base Camp 2.
We are 2km from Sassenfjorden and between the 50 and 100m contour, so hopefully far enough away from the fjord not to interest any polar bears. The view is amazing. The sea ice fills the fjord and it is impossible to tell where the land finishes. We can look across Sassendalen to the sea cliffs of Fordnibba and across the fjord to Templet a majestic mountain whose side is a series of buttresses. We also benefit from 24hrs of sun on the camp. Although during the ‘night’ the sun is lower and is not as warm, the solar gain and difference in temperature being in the sunshine makes is marked, as Isbjørn, who had a sunless camp at Foxdalen, will be able to tell you! There is disappointingly little snow and when digging the tents in and the urinal we reach the tundra. There are areas of bare ground around our Base Camp but the temperatures are still low minus 20, clear, light breeze.

Tuesday, April 21

Moving to Base Camp 2

The move starts. The fresh snow, about a foot, from last night has created an unspoilt landscape – not for long! The snow is incredibly fluffy and glitters in the light, several YEs are amazed by it. Polarrev are up early getting ready for the move whilst all is quiet in the Isbjørn camp as they get up later. Polarrev move off or attempt to, as before they have moved a few metres a ski needs fixing. They are led on their journey by Sarah at 1045.

Polarrev leave Base Camp 1

Isbjørn help Rype to demolish the snow walls around the Fire tents and take down their tentipi and leave at midday. Again just as they ski forward they have to halt to make repairs. They have a sprint start, dragging their pulks in the soft snow to get warm and it’s a tie between Lucy B and Ben. Polarrev get as far as the Passhytta which is at the watershed between Adventdalen and Eskerdalen, Isbjørn camp about 750m away at a pingo. Rype spend the day sorting the equipment for return to Longyearbyen. At first still, clear, -18ºc, becoming breezy from the west.

Isbjorn have a sprint start

Monday, April 20

Chilly Science!

At 1930 Lucy D starts the skinfold thickness testing that was last done in the comfort of the guest house. For most it is the first time that our torsos have seen the light for a fortnight (except Richard who had a strip wash yesterday – someone has to lead the way!). Removing clothing at minus 20, even for the few minutes that the test took, was a challenge!

Decisions Decisions

All are in Base Camp 1 today, preparing for the three day move to Base Camp 2; mending kit, receiving food and fuel.

The YEs and Leaders will move round at Base Camp 2 to create different Fire groups, so there is the opportunity to get to know others better.

To tailor the Fires to the interests of the YEs they each have 30 points to allocate between adventure, biology and geomorphology. Those that are interested in just 1 area allocate all their points to that subject those that have no preference allocate 10 to each. Well that’s the theory we shall see how it works! Clear, still, -20ºc.

Sunday, April 19

Reunions and Resupply

The Fires have traveled from different directions and different distances but their arrival timings at the mouth of Janssondalen is such that the Polarrev leaders can hang back and have a quick chat with Isbjørn before catching back up with their Fire to arrive at Base Camp 1 at 1625.

Isbjørn pulk in from Foxdalen led by Fay. Polarrev pulk in from the Tellbreen led up the slope by Joe closely followed by Christian and Jamie. Sarah’s ski binding broke which made the journey harder as did Pippa’s, she decided to ditch the skis and walk in.

Rype are visited midday by Charlie Hunter and Dave (another expedition duo who are in the area) who drop off some supplies from London. Rype then spend the rest of the day starting to compile the “Svalbard Spring (dead) Plant” book. The Leaders get together in the multicoloured base camp weatherhaven tent to catch up on the news. The YEs catch up on each others tales and get ready to fix their kit tomorrow. Clear, very light breeze, -20ºc.