The archipelago was probably known of already by the Vikings. Brief mentions of “cold shores” in the area, which is now instantly associated with Svalbard, appeared for the first time in 12th-century Nordic sagas.
Spitsbergen is not only glaciers and ominous mountain peaks, but also lush, low-growing tundra, which looks much like verdant green carpets covering the coast. In some areas, during the polar day, the green is striking enough to be visible from a considerable distance, leaving spectators gaping in disbelief at the dazzling green glow of the Arctic. If you’re lucky enough to visit Spitsbergen in July or August, you’re bound to notice large swathes of vegetation at the foot of mountain slopes. Get a bit closer and you’ll soon realize that something crazy is going on all around you. Suddenly, the faint buzz of the Arctic becomes a cacophony of bird calls and the sky gets crowded with thousands of birds flying back and forth between the colony and the sea, on which they rely for food. Every lover of the Far North – and especially of Spitsbergen – should know what links these birds with the sea and the lush Arctic vegetation, and why the connection is so important.
One of the greatest scientific challenges in Svalbard is reaching liquid water found in the region’s subglacial lakes – an issue which we’re discussing with prof. Piotr Głowacki, a glaciologist who spent many years as the manager of the Polish Polar Station in Spitsbergen.
Ancient supercontinents, superminerals and superchallenges are the topic of our discussion with Monika A. Kusiak, the initiator and main investigator of a research project funded under the GRIEG call for proposals, whose execution began on 1 October 2020.
During the 4th International Geographical Congress, held in 1895 in London, president of the Royal Geographical Society Sir C. R. Markham delivered a speech in which he called on the researchers to devote all their efforts to scientific exploration of the area surrounding the Geographic South Pole. What followed was a major increase in research activity in the south polar region and it was then that Polish scientists entered the Antarctic scene.
Poland lies far from the Arctic and, when polar exploration was at its very peak, it didn’t even exist as a country. And yet, despite being scattered far and wide, many Polish researchers took active part in exploratory activity in polar regions. The most popular among them was Northeast Asia, or – more specifically – Siberia, Kamchatka and Novaya Zemlya. Only a few were active in Northern Canada and Greenland, and even fewer made it to the Antarctic. When Poland regained independence, many researchers returned to their homeland and successfully continued their polar studies.