The director of the WWF International Arctic Programme, Dr Neil Hamilton, is visiting Svalbard with a group of WWF colleagues to discuss WWF operations in the Arctic, and the critical importance of securing a major shift in political action over the coming year if the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided. He will be blogging from the trip, taking photos and maybe some video too – please come back for more updates as his journey continues!
By Dr Neil Hamilton
Another bright and beautiful day, with sun from 4am ensuring that any hope of sleeping in was just a dream. It is a great time of year to be on Svalbard, not too cold (minus 10 to minus 20, and 20 hours of sun). Breakfast for 8, and planning the next few days. Christian de Marliave (of Tara fame) and Francois Bertrand, two highly experienced polar explorers briefed the crew before we headed out for a relaxing morning around Longyearbyen, including visiting the new airship museum, buying last minute supplies, and climbing a small mountain to test our snow isotope sampler.
Our late arrivals from Switzerland landed early and we joined up for lunch. This is the first time the group has been together since the planning meeting a month ago, and is the beginning of a really exciting trip to a place none of us have been since the 1990s. So what did we eat for lunch? Pizza and pasta, those well known Norwegian delicacies.
We were fortunate today to be able to visit a globally unique facility, the Global Crop Diversity Trust “ Svalbard Seed Bank”, often called “the doomsday vault” by the media. This is an amazing facility for storing the genetic diversity of the worlds food crops, in seed form. Julian Laird from the Trust explained that this place already houses over 400 thousand samples from all over the world, keeping them safe for the future.
Back to the hotel, where I briefed the team on WWF operations in the Arctic, and we discussed the critical importance of securing a major shift in political action over the coming year if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In spite of our varied backgrounds, nationalities, and professions it is obvious that everyone thinks along exactly the same lines: we are in a unique situation, a crisis, and the need to act is urgent.