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University of Groningen alumni in the Arctic

This summer, the University of Groningen Alumni Department organized an alumni trip again. To mark the restart of what we hope to be a continuing annual event from now on, the University chose a destination that is both adventurous and fascinating, as well as rich in Dutch exploration history: the Arctic.

On 24 August, a group of 30 alumni set out from Schiphol Airport to the island of Spitsbergen situated between the 78˚ and 81˚ longitudes to the North of Norway. In this region, the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen has been conducting archeological, biological and climatological research since the late seventies, under the supervision of prof.dr. Louwrens Hacquebord. There are few areas in the world that rouse the spirit as much as the polar regions, rogued and spacious as they are, and steeped in history of perseverant explorers and entrepreneurs.

Under close guidance of prof. dr. Hacquebord and Arctic guide Frits Steenhuisen, the alumni were submerged in a world of glaciers, harsh winds, eternal light, cold rock and the most beautiful flora and fauna, among which polar willows as high as a thumb and seals, arctic birds, walruses, polar bears and even a gorgeous minke whale. Adding to the enjoyment of all, were all the awe-inspiring tales of how different nations tried to settle here, bait for whale hunting, coalmining or simply exploring the outer regions and the north pole. A few were successful, but many failed.

University of Groningen alumni in the Arctic

Nowadays, the Arctic is the region on earth that first shows us the consequences of climatological change and air and water pollution. It is our first tell-tale sign for what is in store for the rest of the world, as mercury levels keep rising and more and more ice keeps melting. Through the accompaniment of our two experts, the alumni were able to get answers to all and any questions they had on these subjects, and were able to determine in the field for themselves how the Arctic is affected by human developments.

But most of all, we enjoyed the experience of being amazed. Amazed by little puffins diving in front of the boat, the sharp tips of the Westcoast mountains that inspired Barentsz to name the land Spitsbergen (‘pointy mountains’), the big white belly of the minke whale, flashing behind our ship, and all around us tundras and glaciers, air and space.

So when can we go again?

Last modified:16 March 2020 3.49 p.m.