Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sorby will be the first two women to overwinter in Svalbard on their own. Their goal is to conduct research and raise awareness about how climate changes affect Nordic life.
Published: 16 November 2018
Starting in August 2019, a very special project – Hearts In The Ice – will take place in the bay Ingebrigtsenbukta on Spitsbergen, the archipelago Svalbard’s largest island.
There, Canadian Sunniva Sorby and Norwegian Hilde Fålun Strøm will spend nine months in the former trapper’s hut Bamsebu, where they will be documenting the Arctic life and contribute to the scientific research in this unique natural area.
Hilde Fålun Strøm has lived in Svalbard for 23 years, without ever looking back, she says to Visit Norway.
“I was fascinated by the nature, the light, the special wildlife and the location of Longyearbyen, where you live in the wilderness in many ways. It may sound elusive, but there’s something about the energy here – a kind of grounding – that I’m very attracted to, throughout all of the seasons.”
The idea of spending a winter in the wild, 140 kilometres from other people and urban facilities, has stayed with her for quite some time.
“My idea of overwintering was already there, 23 years ago, but in a simpler form. Back then, it was more about experiencing and being part of the harsh and inhospitable nature”, she says, adding:
“But gradually, I’ve witnessed dramatic changes in the climate and nature here – especially a rise in temperature that affects everything from ice and wildlife to biodiversity. Some of this may be due to natural cycles, but there’s no doubt that humans have caused a lot of it – and that we can slow down or stop the process.”
In other words, the environmental aspect of Hearts In The Ice is an essential part of the project, which also benefits from the know-how of academic communities and recources from sponsors.
“Our plan is to use wind and solar power in our daily power consumtion, as well as the charging our two electric snowmobiles. Although the solar cell solutions are getting more and more effective, a lot of it will be based on windmills. This is a practical example of green power.”
In addition, the two women will be testing new technology, as well as taking micro plastic samples from the ocean, cleaning the beaches for waste and conducting observations for NASA, SCRIPPT Ocean and Norwegian Polar Institute. Even without expert knowledge about this field, making a difference is possible.
“We hope to communicate our love for Svalbard, and create new ambassadors that way. It’s about enthusiasm and involvement, showing that the changes we need to make to become sensible consumers really aren’t that dramatic. This movement is already happening, and it feels good to be a small part of it.”
While nine months far away from civilization may sound like a heavy ordeal to most of us, there are a lot of sides to the stay that Hilde Fålun Strøm is looking forward to.
“Being one with the vast nature around us. Following the light, the mood, the wildlife. It’s an extremely primitive and simple life. But you think you have more time than you actually have – this type of life is time-consuming, whether it’s taking care of hygiene, making sure the dogs thrive or securing enough heat”, she says to Visit Norway.
She does realize that challenges may occur during close to 300 days in a 20 square feet cabin.
“The hardest part may easily be loneliness – being far away from everything. Challenges of a more practical nature may typically include weather, equipment or having to deal with a grumpy polar bear. Fortunately, we’re two adults who respect each other, so I don’t think there will be that many problems.”
Close encounters with polar bears – the undisputed kings of Svalbard – is something the adventurer has experience before.
“I’ve completed a similar project before, with another friend, that lasted for two months. We had polar bears visiting us every day. A truly amazing experience.”
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