Left Longyearbyen in the early morning, 14 hours of navigation through sea-ice by boat were necessary to land in Ny-Ålesund, a small town on the west side of Svalbard that brings together several research institutes from different countries. After some hours spent in courses about rules, safety, and all the precautions against the wildlife present outside of the town, the organization of field and laboratory activities finally began.
The purpose of this scientific campaign is to study the thawing of permafrost, looking for active microbial communities involved in organic matter degradation and greenhouse gas release. So day by day, our research group is divided into two main teams, the "Drilling Team", and the "Lab Team". The "Drilling Team" has to look for spots with ideal geological features and get there by snowmobile. Before starting to drill, reaching the frozen ground is necessary, sometimes shovelling half a meter of snow.
Then, the drill can be placed and activated, trying to get more permafrost cores from as deep as possible. Moreover, to allow safe working conditions, one or two people have to stand on guard against polar bears.
The obtained permafrost cores are then transferred to the laboratory where the "Lab Team" section the frozen cores into smaller parts, and then subsamples are taken to be stored and then analyzed in the next months following a multidisciplinary approach.
Days go fast and we hope to get as many samples as possible!