Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Viking Museum at Borg, Lofoten islands

The Viking territories

The Lofotr Borg Viking Museum is located 55 km from the town of Svolvaer, in the Lofoten Islands.

It was in 1982 that a farmer found some interesting "potsherds"; anthropologists and archeologists who excavated the land found evidences of the Viking era. The farmstead which was found after the excavation was discovered to be the property of one of the most important chieftains of the Viking region. The museum was constructed at this place.

In Northern Norway during the Iron-age, there were about 10-15 Chiefdoms, one of which was at Borg in Lofoten. Excavations shows that it was established around 500 AD.

Archaeological studies formed the basis when the house was reconstructed. The ground plan, the room partitions, the location of poles and fire places, the wooden walls and outer walls made of grass turf could all be reconstructed in accordance with the excavated structures.

Structures in the ground and the artefacts that have been found indicate that a chieftain lived here. The farm was evidently different from surrounding farms.

In the area there are also vestiges of boat houses for long-boats, circular tunnel systems, barrows, and vestiges of other long-houses. Added together, these remains indicate that there was a concentration of power in the area during the Iron age.

The Viking Museum displays:

- The 83 m long reconstructed long-house
- a reconstructed boathouse
- a forge
- several artifacts - and the Viking long ship "Lofotr"

Monday, 18 January 2010

So many different "snows" !

In the native languages of the arctic there are dozens of different words for snow and ice:

kaniq, qirihuq, qirititat, nilak, nilak, nilaktaqtuq, hiku, hiquaq, hikuaqtuaq, hikurhuit, hikuqihuq, hikuliaq, maniraq, hikup hinaa, qainnguq, manillat, kassut, iluliaq, ilulissirhuq, auktuq, quihaq, hirmiijaut...

Rime frost, freshwater ice, sea ice, thin ice, pack ice, new ice, the ice edge, solid ice, hummocky ice, pressure ridges, pieces of floating ice, icebergs in the water, melting ice…

When an inuit hunter speeds on his dog sled, the kind of ice he's on makes the difference between life and death - sliding or sinking. Ice is the only runway, the only drink, the only shelter where you build an igloo. No wonder you have to be precise when you describe it.

Just think in reverse: in non-arctic regions we have lots of something inuits scarcely know : trees. If one of them comes to our land, oak, willow, pine, larch, maple, cedar, birch... - all those would be merely "tree" for our eskimo !

By the way, a new word: sastrugi.

It means the ridges or dunes or in ice that are parallel to the prevailing wind direction.

They´ve been observed also in...Mars !


Friday, 15 January 2010

Homer, Alaska - a slideshow

In a recent post I wrote about Homer, here.
Now a more exaustive presentation is available:

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

AWI's Neumeyer III - a base and a fleet in Antarctica

Neumayer Station III

The new center of german research in Antarctica.
Position: 70°40'S, 008°16'

On February 20th, 2009, the new german Antarctic research base Neumayer Station III was inaugurated. This is the first research station to integrate research, operational and accommodation facilities in one building, situated on a platform above the snow surface, and connected to a garage in the snow.

Within a protective casing, the platform accommodates 100 containers with living quarters, a kitchen, a mess, a hospital, various laboratories, workshops, a radio operator room, sanitary facilities, the power supply station and a snow-melting plant.

A primary feature of the new station is the ability to compensate for adverse effects of snow and ice accumulation by means of hydraulic elevation of the building, without leaving parts of the construction to be swallowed by snow. The station's energy supply comes from a block heat and power plant containing four diesel generators of 150 kW each.

Nine or at most ten people live and work at Neumayer Station during the Antarctic winter: a medical doctor who also acts as the head of the station, a meteorologist, an airchemist, two geophysicists, an engineer, an electrician, a radio operator/electronics engineer and a cook. Each team overwintering at the station stays there for 14 to 15 months. For nine months of that time, their only link to the outside world is by radio. In the short Antarctic summer, 30 searchers at most can live there.

Now itself buried 12 meters under the snow surface and under increasing structural pressure, Neumayer II had to be replaced by a new station. Neumayer III was shipped to Antarctica in January 2008 as an assembly kit comprising of the outer structure and shell of the station, and of the interlocking containers that sit inside and make up its interior habitable structure.

With a weight of 2 300 tons, Neumayer III consists of a superstructure raised on 16 hydraulic legs (resting on as many foundation slabs) that can be jacked up progressively over the years to elevate the building and counter snow accumulation. Neumayer III is a show-case of modern building technology, an will be runned by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for polar and marine research.


The Alfred Wegener Institute carries out research in the Arctic and Antarctic. The institute coordinates German polar research and makes available to national and international science important infrastructure, like the research ice breaker “Polarstern” and research stations .

The Polar 5, a new research plane also developed by the Alfred Wegener Institute specifically for this region.

The research icebreaker Polarstern:

A floating large-scale laboratory

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Yakutia : Chyskhaan, The Lord of the Cold

Ded Moroz (Santa Claus) meets Chyskhaan, Lord of the Cold, in Russia's remote Yakutia.

In the culture of the Slavs the traditional character Ded Moroz plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus. The literal translation of the name would be Grandfather Frost.

Unlike Santa Claus, he walks with a long magical staff, does not say "Ho, ho, ho," and drives no reindeer but a troika. His roots are in pagan beliefs, but since the 19th century his attributes and legend have been "modernized" .

Chyskhaan, the Lord of the Cold, is a character from the folkore of Yakutia, a remote siberian region. The legend behind Chyskhaan:

" The Lord of Cold has the responsibility is to keep the cold confined to specific latitudes, to specific heights, and to specific land masses. He keeps the Arctic and the Antarctic pristine with cold and snow. At Yule, the longest night and shortest day, people in the north gathered at shrines built in his name, and offered gifts to him to take away the cold and to allow the sun to return. The gifts were left at the shrine. Chyskhaan would gather up the gifts and redistribute them to those that were in need, keeping for himself what he needed to honour the magic he would work over the next several months. His magic would chase away the night and bring forth the sun. At the same time, he controlled how quickly the ice and snow would melt in order to avoid flooding out the villages and people that depended on him. He also buried sacred places beneath the snow so that they would be undetected by those that would seek to use the knowledge for personal goals and for power. As the people in the world are becoming more enlightened, he is relaxing his hold on the cold to allow discovery of new information at the appropriate time. "

Yule was an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples, which was progressively absorbed into the Christian observations surrounding Christmas.

In J.K.Rowling's Novel "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", Hogwarts hosts a "YULE" ball.

Yule proper starts with the chiming of the church-bells in the afternoon of julaften ("Yule Eve") on December 24, the previous day when the tree is put up and decorated, is increasingly the actual start date for the 13 day long Yule celebration in Norway.

Oymyakon, the Pole of Cold

At 63°15′N 143°9′E, Oymyakon is the permanently inhabitated place on earth where the lowest temperature has been registered :

Everest min
- 41ºC
Oymyakon min
- 71,2 ºC!

The Pole of Cold International Tourist Festival takes place in Tomtor, Oymyakon. This is the region of Yakutia to be considered as the coldest place in Siberia and the northern hemisphere.

Pictures: WENN , Picasa

Monday, 4 January 2010

Nunataks in Greenland

Nunataks (ice-free summits ) in East Greenland.

A Nunatak is an exposed peak, not covered with ice or snow, in an ice field or glacier. Nunataks are reference points in glaciers or ice caps.
As the ice cap recedes, these rock formations are more frequently visible. They are more typical of the northeast coast.

Gunnbjørn Fjeld is a nunatak.

Gunnbjørn Fjeld, peaking at 3733 m, is Greenland's highest mountain: on the east coast, south of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund) - a rocky peak protruding through glacial ice.
Location 68° 55′ N 29° 54′ W

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Into 2010 with M101

Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier's famous catalog. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is huge, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy.

M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away.