March 25, 2010
Clear, and cold
Last night a group of us wandered down to the pier to watch for the northern lights. We were given one bit of instruction: to see them you have to be outside. So we bundled up in several layers of pants and several layers of shirts and walked down o the fjord’s edge and waited. At first, there was a faint line in the sky but then it seemed like something exploded and the sky was split by a flowing green river of photons. The river would recede a bit, then flare back up, and we sat and froze and watched. It was really wonderful; I don’t think that photographs can capture the scale and intensity of the phenomena.
At breakfast, a row of schoolchildren with backpacks tromped down the street outside of the hotel, each carrying a small sled and sometimes a shovel. One by one, under the careful supervision of a teacher, they sledded down the huge hill in the park and gathered the make igloos and snow sculptures. We had class in the morning and ate lunch then went over to the Tromsø University museum and walked through the exhibits. It was very interesting because it seemed like all the themes we’ve talked about throughout the course were tied together in these few exhibits. Evolution and adaptation were prominently featured. Upstairs was a cultural exhibit about the Sami: a native Nordic people who were forced to assimilate into Norwegian culture in the mid-1900s.
After the museum we walked through a park that looked out over the fjord and to the mountains. We reached the top of a large hill and stood there for a few minutes before several people started skidding down on their backs using water proof jackets as sleds. Somebody found a small real sled, like the one the kids were using this morning, and suddenly we were launching one another down the hill. As I slid down, I felt like it was one of a collection of moments during the trip that were characterized by disregarding any anxiety and just throwing myself down, or off, or over something. In Thailand, jumping off the waterfall. In the Maldives, jumping off the boat. In Egypt, running down the sand dune. I wish that Biomes could have a highlights reel – so I spent the afternoon going through my pictures and organizing the ones I like the best.
Now, we’re probably going to go out and look at the northern lights again. Tomorrow we leave for Spitsbergen, and have to protect ourselves from the wild roaming polar bears.