Saturday, 9 May 2009

Ny Ålesund and the adventure of the Norge
- part I

Ny Ålesund is situated on the NW coast of the Svalbard island Spitzberg.

Ny Ålesund station is probably the most northern inhabited place on Earth. It has some 30 permanent residents, although all of them are scientist or research related personnel.

It is located almost at 79º N, inside a beautiful fiord called Kongsfjord (King's fiord). It started as a coal mining site and lasted until 1962 reaching some 400 residents. After a tagic mining accident, coal mines where shut and some years later Ny Ålesund became a scientific station.

Being so northern, the place has some absolute records, like having the most northern train, hotel and post office. It also has a souvenir store and a museum, also records themselves, as well as the most northern statue - of Roald Amundsen, the norwegian explorer .

Ny Ålesund is becoming increasingly popular as a base for polar research. The latest newcomer from the far east, after China and Korea, is India, which opened a station in early 2008. Now there are 11 participating countries in several projects.

The main historic event connected with Ny Ålesund is the flight of the airship "Norge", the first expedition to reach the North Pole ... by air! This will be Ultima Thule 's next story...

Is Global warming just delaying a new Ice Age ?

Maybe the causes of global warming are not as recent as the industrial coal-fueled revolution 200 years ago, but as old as thousands of years ago with intensive agriculture and large scale deforestation. That´s what recent studies show: following a pattern of alterning warm and cold periods, such as have occurred at regular 100 000-year intervals during the last million years, the world should presently be living a new cold era! Only the cumulative effects of thousands of years of human activity are preventing the world from entering a new glacial age.

Stephen Vavrus and colleague John Kutzbach , climatologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Climatic Research and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, provided detailed evidence in support of an idea first put forward by climatologist William F. Ruddiman of the University of Virginia.

"We're at a very favorable state right now for increased glaciation," says Kutzbach. "Nature is favoring it at this time in orbital cycles, and if humans weren't in the picture it would probably be happening today."

Using three different climate models and removing the amount of greenhouse gases humans have injected into the atmosphere during the past 5,000 to 8,000 years, Vavrus and Kutzbach observed more permanent snow and ice cover in regions of Canada, Siberia, Greenland and the Rocky Mountains .

Source: ScienceDaily

Friday, 8 May 2009


In his book about the Arctic Thule expeditions and the inuit people, Knud Rasmussen (the greenlandic explorer) gives an account of that remarkable skill they call "Silanigtalersarput", the capacity of seeing clearly in darkness and even see through the clothing, skin and flesh of the fellow beings, into their very innermost being."

Anyhow, it is a great word for deep wisdom. I could use some Silanigtalersarput.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

An Arctic Poem

Emily Dickinson - As if some little Arctic flower

As if some little Arctic flower
Upon the polar hem
Went wandering down the Latitudes
Until it puzzled came
To continents of summer
To firmaments of sun
To strange, bright crowds of flowers
And birds, of foreign tongue!
I say, As if this little flower
To Eden, wandered in
What then? Why nothing,
Only, your inference therefrom!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

My town

I live in Porto - Gaia, a double city in Portugal on both sides of the Douro river, close to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean. You can find a rather nice quality of life here, despite a little too much litter on the streets, rude talking and some very ugly buildings. Street crime is growing too.

But the old trading town center is attractive, there is quite a lot of nice cafés ( I mean, coffee houses: they mainly serve coffee), paved pedestrian streets with old houses and many many shops,some baroque churches and an old beautiful public garden.

The problem is that Porto - Gaia is off the circuit of the great cities of culture. It's a rather dead provincial town. Almost everything looks old and in decay. The only joyful area is by the sea - the sea promenades: North and South of the river , they are the best places to live.

There is absolutely no feeling of adventure here, no research teams, no explorers whatever, no dreams of Thule! Just a conventional and sad day-by-day, without horizons to look for except the sea.

That´s why I started this blog. I feel I am living elsewhere, in lands of mistery and unexpected thrills, of calm lonesome beauty waiting to be discovered and explored.

Images: Isabel Fiadeiro, Henrique Matos

Monday, 4 May 2009

Music for Thule :
1 - Spiegel im Spiegel

Written by Arvo Pärt in 1978 , "Mirror in a Mirror" is my first choice for Ultima Thule music. I found in it the mistery, the strangeness, the tranquility, the solitude, the sense of infinity and transcendence I search.

Here we will moor our lonely ship

Here we will moor our lonely ship
And wander ever with woven hands,
Murmuring softly lip to lip,
Along the grass, along the sands,
Murmuring how far away are the unquiet lands.

The Indian to his Love