Drive of the month: Svalbard Islands

Safecaster Ben Lutch recently uploaded data from Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago far north of the arctic circle, about 1200km from the north pole itself, and home of the Global Seed Vault. Some readers will recall that we received data from Antarctica in Dec., 2013, so these recent uploads mean we now have data on our maps from both polar regions. The image above is a polar projection map showing the location of Svalbard, based on a bathymetric map made available by the NOAA.

Above: Google Maps coverage of Svalbard is a bit spotty. Safecast generally uses Mercator projection basemaps, which distorts the polar regions, but in this case the area covered is small enough that this is minimized.

Though the full-time population of Svalbard is only about 2600, there are daily flights from Oslo and Tromsø, and it boasts the northernmost full-service hotel in the world, so it’s actually probably both more accessible and comfortable than most of us would have assumed. Ben’s trip coincided with a total solar eclipse visible there, and he and his son Jonathan, age 11, went there specifically for that.

Above: Jonathan Lutch at the eclipse viewing site shortly before totality.

Above: Safecast data map of Longyearbyen, on the main island of Spitsbergen, Svalbard Islands. The eclipse viewing site was at the extreme lower left.

We’re happy to see this data for many reasons, one of which is the further confirmation that the bGeigie Nano works well in arctic conditions. To date it’s been used in extremely frigid conditions as well as in deserts and jungles, and on many types of vehicles and terrain, and we’re happy to say that we get very few reports of malfunctions even in these kinds of demanding conditions.

Lutch - SvalbardDiamondSM
Above: Ben’s photo of the “diamond” moments before eclipse totality, taken using an Astro-Physics telescope and a Nikon camera.

Above: Father and son at the entrance to the Global Seed Vault.

We consider ourselves lucky to have adventurous volunteers willing to take the Nano along on trips like this to the ends of the earth. We get many interesting uploads, and hope to catch up with the backlog of drives worth highlighting soon.

Above: Ben’s panoramic shot of the frozen seafront near Longyearbyen.

(NOTE: We got in touch with Ben after our original post went online, and he graciously provided more information and photos. We’ve updated this post accordingly.)

About the Author

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast's lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.