On the way up

Every time I go to the Arctic, I retrace my own steps. I have to fly through Germany to Norway and work my way north, covering territory that I know well. Sometimes I stop to see friends along the way, and every time I do, I get to visit old versions of myself, too.

This trip, the retracing started by chance, when I spotted two colleagues from AWI in Frankfurt Airport. It was "more than a coincidence," to quote my colleague, Thomas. Once I got to Oslo, I stayed with my friend, Kristina, and got to visit her workplace at NIVA (Norwegian Institute for Water Research). In another strange coincidence, one of Kristina's NIVA colleagues remembered me from 2019, when I gave a seminar at the University of Oslo. Friends, the world is small, and Norway is tiny. 

It was lovely to connect with Kristina. She and I were postdocs and dive buddies at WHOI a few years ago. She's moved on to her own permanent position, a house, a dog, and a baby. We had a lot to catch up on, and I really enjoyed spending time with her. 

My next stop was Svalbard, and my grad student joined mid-flight. If you fly from Oslo to Longyearbyen, you have to touch down in Tromsø to get your passport stamped because you're technically leaving the Schengen area. My grad student, Kharis, had flown to Tromsø the day before, so we spotted each other in the airport as I was about to re-board the plane. 

Once we got to Longyearbyen, it was actually Kharis's connection that shaped our evening. A good friend of Kharis's mom lives in Longyearbyen, so we invited her to join us for dinner. The story of how the two women met is another chance encounter - one of them was lost, and the other was the only person around who could speak English. They've been close friends for decades since. 

Our final chance encounter was as we were leaving the restaurant. I spotted a researcher from Tromsø who I had met at a conference in 2019. We both work on larvae, and Kharis and I have both cited her papers extensively. It's been four years, but I recognized her right away. 

I absolutely adore the Arctic, and I'm proud to be part of the community of researchers in the high north. My route to Svalbard has been full of chance encounters and reaffirming old connections. It's been quite the journey so far!