A month behind the Polar Circle

Initially, I planned to write few, more proper posts on Svalbard’s geology but it seems there will never be enough time for this. So better something than nothing and at least few nice pictures:

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For the backstory Svalbard is an archipelago behind the polar circle, about 1000 km north from the northern Norway. This autumn I spend one month there studying geology. There is a university center (UNIS) which offers various courses and degree programs in Arctic Biology, Geology, Geophysics and Arctic Technology.

You may wonder who had such a crazy idea to put a university center in the middle of nowhere but considering everything this place can offer the idea is actually pretty sane.

There are only few places on the world where such a rich and diverse geology representing nearly the entire history of the Earth is exposed in such a small area. Svalbard has metamorphic rocks and tillites from Precambrian, trilobites and graptolites from Cambrian and Ordovician, intrusive granites of Silurian age, Devonian fishes and plants, coal and evaporates from Carboniferous, marine reptiles and dinosaur footprints from Mesozoic, Large Igneous Province from Cretaceous, deformed foreland basin deposits from Tertiary, deposits of more than 50 glaciations in Quaternary and excellent modern-day periglacial landscapes. But the main reason why this place attracts many industry-oriented geology students is its post-Devonian sedimentary rocks which are analogues to the hydrocarbon bearing structures in Barents Sea. Svalbard is a part of Barents Sea which was uplifted and exposed due to tectonic processes. Many of the outcrops in Svalbard are seismic scale examples of source and reservoir rocks for hydrocarbons in Barents Sea. Understanding of them is a way how to understand and interpret the seismic sections from Barents Sea.

And besides all of that the place is absolutely wonderful. UNIS is probably the only university on the world teaching geologists how to handle weapons because there is a real danger of polar bears outside (and sometimes inside) the city. My course had a 9 day boat trip around the western coast of Svalbard visiting all the best localities, everyday hikes in mountains with a lot of logging practice. We saw a polar bear, heard a landslide, I almost slipped off from the cliff (but that’s fine, I enjoy memories like that) and walked a glacier. That’s almost half of the things from my “geology to-do list”.

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