Northernmost community

Everywhere around Ny-Ålesund, you will see the phrase "the world's northernmost community." It's true - the research station is the closest you can possibly live to the North Pole year-round. There are some temporary ice camps, and of course ships travel into the central Arctic, but as far as permanent settlements go, Ny-Ålesund is the farthest north. 

You could call Ny-Ålesund the world's northernmost town, settlement, or research station - all of those descriptors would be accurate. But I find "community" to be the most appropriate. Because up here, there's a very strong sense that we rely on one another. 

When you go into the mess hall for meals, you sit at whatever table has available seats. If you don't know the person across from you, you introduce yourself. That's happened to me many times. In one case, I struck up a conversation with an Italian researcher who was passionate about invertebrates. She told me about a project she had done a few years ago at the Italian Antarctic research station (which is actually pretty close to McMurdo), and when she found out I was an invertebrate person too, she asked me to look at her data. I followed her over to the Italian research building here in Ny-Ålesund to look at her images. It was a fun opportunity to help a fellow scientist and reminisce about some Antarctic invertebrates

In another case, a researcher from Norway found out that Kharis and I were collecting zooplankton samples to look for larvae and offered to help out. Helmer Hanssen, the Norwegian research ship, is in Kongsfjorden right now, so she arranged for the scientists aboard to collect extra samples for us in the middle of the fjord. We arrived in our lab one morning to find a collection of perfectly-preserved zooplankton samples - a nice bonus in our trip.

After a meal yesterday, a Scottish scientist leaned over and got my attention. "Kirstin, when are you moving out of your cold room?" His team needed a little extra space in a room kept at low temperature, and Kharis and I don't need all the space in our room. We were able to come up with a plan to accommodate his team and fit everyone's experiments in. 

Probably the most impressive case is a French researcher who offered to help Kharis and me with a new type of analysis we're trying out. It's a type of analysis that he does all the time, but which I have only tried once before. His expertise is invaluable to our project. He even offered we could use his sample cups, and when I had a hard time locating them, the French station leader showed up at my lab to hand me the package. 

I am so grateful to be part of the world's northernmost community! 

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