ArtView May 2015 - Page 38

Arctic mountains do at the poles. For a start, the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon starting the third week of October. This means that there is daylight, but not daylight as we know it. Instead it’s a kind of bluish-grey light, with the tips of the mountains alight with the last pink rays of sun coloring their peaks. From November 14 – January 29 there is no light at all. Not only does the sun behave strangely, but so does the moon. This time of the year the moon makes an oval around the North Pole so it is nearly always visible. The night sky is increasingly important as the days get shorter by about 20 minutes per day. After several days of sailing we had a clear night and many of us were anxious to see the Northern Lights, the aurora borealis. Ironically, the captain of the boat informed us that we were too far north to see them. They form a ring around the pole and we were well inside the ring. We did finally see them some time later when we worked our way south. We had to look south in order to see them. I filled up an entire sketchbook with ideas and impressions. Each day was spent on land, hiking, sketching, and taking photos. Like any tourist in an unfamiliar land, my sketches are first impressions and will stay in the sketchbook. I will use the sketches as launching points for ideas and memories of how the scenery affected me. A lot of the behavior of the landscape is dictated by the permafrost that is 100600 meters thick. Because the earth is frozen starting about 1 meter beneath the surface, there is no drainage and that means only select plants can grow there. Both of the Earth’s poles are deserts and this is fortunate for the plants, given the lack of drainage. Some plants, like the Tufted Saxifrage, look similar to what I find in the desert of Southern California. No trees grow in Svalbard. Frost heave and soil creep are conditions of permafrost that push rocks to the surface and make buildings unstable. In Longyearbyen all water, sewer, and electrical ducts have to be above the surface. Stones split due to extreme cold and heat fluctuations over the years