On July 20th 2017 in Svalbard, a woman with her husky dog came to pick us up from our hotel. Her name was Camilla and she was a mountain guide. We were going to go for a hike up on a glacier and we had to have Camilla with us to show us the way and also to carry a rifle as you are not allowed outside of Longyearbyen without a gun because of all the polar bears! We can't remember the name of her dog because it was a long, complicated Russian name. Camilla had a very dirty truck (no offence!)

Crossing the river on the way up to Longyearbreen Glacier

Crossing the river on the way up to Longyearbreen Glacier

When we got to the start of the walk we had to cross a meandering river that was split into lots of little rivers. Some of them had very strong currents and were quite deep. Everyone was jumping on rocks to get across. I, however, didn't jump on the rocks. I went straight through the river. It was freezing! On the way up the hill there were bigger mountains either side of us. We saw some mines on them (not the ones that blow up, but the ones where people mine with a pick axe for coal). We also found an abandoned dog hut where huskies used to live (husky dogs are not allowed to live in the town with their owners because they're too noisy). We spotted some white fur on the ground and thought it might be from a polar bear, but Camilla told us it was from a reindeer.

One of the most exciting things we found were some fossils. There were loads of them and they were of leaves and I even found one fossil of a stick. It looked like bamboo. There are no trees on Svalbard now, just little plants and wildflowers like the Svalbard Poppy, which is the national flower of Svalbard. But, the fossils showed us that there was once lots of vegetation. I was sad I didn’t find any dinosaur fossils and even sadder that I wasn’t allowed to take my stick fossil home with me. But, my Mum told me a saying which goes,

Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs

When we finally got up to the glacier we had to put on special spikes on our boots so we didn’t slip on the ice. The glacier is called Longyearbreen. Glaciers are giant, frozen rivers. They have tonnes of crevasses on them which are cracks in the ice so we had to be careful and follow Camilla’s footsteps. Sometimes bits of the glacier melt and make meltpools, which you definitely don’t want to slip into! The glacier looked really dirty with lots of rubble and stones all over it. Dark colours absorb heat and light colours reflect heat. So, what happens is even though the snow reflects the heat, the dirt heats up and and it’s the dirt that melts the snow.

On the way back the river had got bigger and some bits were more difficult to cross, so we borrowed another guide’s ladder (randomly he had a ladder?!) and used it like a bridge. The grown ups and the dog just jumped across. I wanted to, but I wasn’t allowed. When we got close to Camilla’s truck we saw some reindeer!

On our way home

On our way home

It was a great day out. I learned a lot about outdoor survival, wildlife and glaciers and I loved finding all the fossils. I learnt that if its cold and you need a wee, you should go as soon as you can because holding it in makes your body even colder (scientific fact!). I learnt that reindeers moult, that the Svalbard Poppy has a black middle with yellow petals and that polar bears are the biggest bears in the world. Also, that arctic fox poop on Svalbard has a bacteria in it that can get into the glacier water and make you really sick if you drink it. It’s from the mice the foxes eat. One cool glacier fact that I learnt was that glaciers don’t stay in one place. They ‘roll’ really slowly down hill and get things stuck in them. That’s how really big rocks end up in really random places.

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