2013 Svalbard Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program


Acknowledgment of Risk



Participant Name _______________________________________________________


The Arctic is a beautiful and fragile environment, but potentially hazardous and unforgiving of carelessness. Svalbard is a group of islands located in the Arctic at 78 north latitude, about 800 km (500 miles) north of the northern tip of Norway. Svalbard is independent territory administered by the Norwegian government (for more info, see http://www.sysselmannen.svalbard.no/eng/). Over two-thirds of Svalbard is covered with glaciers and ice caps.


For its high latitude location, Svalbard is relatively warm. The average temperature during July is +6º C (43º F). There will be days when we will work in tee-shirts and other days when we will use all of our warm layers. The northern arm of the Gulf Stream passes the west coast of Svalbard bringing relatively warm water and warm air from the south, to Svalbard. At the same time this often creates sharp gradients in temperature, which lead to high winds and rapidly changing weather. Rainy and cloudy weather are common. Because Svalbard is well above the Arctic Circle, you will experience 24 hours of daylight during the entire field season.


You will be working outdoors continuously for 12-16 hours in potentially cold, rainy weather five to seven days each week. You will be hiking 15 km (10 miles) or more over rocky ground every day carrying a 15-25 kg (35-50 lb) backpack. We will often be hiking on glaciers, loose rocky talus slopes and ice-cored moraines, and crossing meltwater rivers up to 0.5 m (2 ft) deep. Since much of our work is studying Lake Linné, you will often be working out of a small boat on an icy lake. We will return to indoor dormitory facilities every night with catered food, showers, and shared dorm rooms. You will not be able to receive mail while in the field but a telephone may be available (at your own expense). We expect to have some shared internet access.


Svalbard is home to Polar Bears (Ursus martimus), a marine mammal weighing over 450 kg (1,000 lbs) and standing over 3m (9 feet) tall. Despite its size and awesome strength the polar bear is swift and agile, moves easily on rough ice and steep slopes, and is an excellent swimmer. They typically hunt seals among the sea ice but also wander the land and are known to stalk and kill humans, although this is rare. Polar bears are curious, and often investigate any strange object, smell, or noise. They have an acute sense of smell that will lead any bear to a food source many kilometers away. Its eyesight is thought to equal that of a human.


Our first line of protection against polar bears is avoiding them! At all times outdoors, everyone must keep constant watch for bear. If we see a bear, we leave the area immediately. NO ONE travels ANYWHERE alone (not even to wander out of sight to pee). We will also carry firearms (flare guns and high powered rifles) as last-resort protection against a charging polar bear. You will receive firearm training in Svalbard and everyone will be required to learn to safely handle and accurately shoot these firearms. Even with all precautions, we cannot guarantee that you will not be injured, dismembered, killed, and eaten by a polar bear.


Basic first aid (i.e., Band-Aids and aspirin) will be available at all times, but more advanced medical facilities are only available in the town of Longyearbyen. Travel time to the medical clinic in Longyearbyen is a minimum of two hours but travel to the town may be impossible for days a time due to inclement weather. Full medical facilities are only available on the Norwegian mainland, a three-hour air flight from Svalbard. Because of the remoteness of our fieldwork, you will need to take extra precaution to avoid any injury. You must ensure that you are in good physical condition and have sufficient personal health insurance to cover hospitalization and emergency medical evacuation that may be necessary.



I _______________________________________ a participant in the 2013 Svalbard REU summer research program have reviewed the Acknowledgment of Risk form (above) and understand the inherent dangers involved in conducting Arctic research.





___________________________________ ____________________________ Student Participant Signature/date