Hello Svalbard

I recently watched a couple of videos from Svalbard. Things didn’t go according to plan for photographer Thomas Heaton because of the warmer than expected conditions there:


It’s been documented by the Washington Post as well.

The international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, Kim Holmen, who lives in Longyearbyen, says of climate change here, “This town is certainly the place where it’s happening first and fastest and even the most.”

Holmen notes that Svalbard used to be where students came to observe Arctic conditions. Now it is the place they come to study a climate in transition.

That’s it, Kim. Always look for the positives.

Of course, observing Arctic conditions studying a climate in transition isn’t the only thing to do in Svalbard, as I found out by googling Things to do in Svalbard.

Pyramiden looks like the place to be, not just offering mining and (possibly still?) glacier, but also polar bear and bear.

Ursines. One never can get enough.

And can we just take a moment to acknowledge the names of settlements in Svalbard? Svalbard is great.

The Longyear Town“, “Ice Fjord“, “The Pyramid” and er… “New Ålesund” (less impressive, let’s be fair) in that foursome above alone.

Many beagle-eyed readers will likely see this post as a thinly veiled attempt to get some readers in from the wonderful island of SVALBARD – one of the few places on earth from which 6000 miles… hasn’t been accessed. Maybe it is.

If you’re reading this, Kim Holmen, please give us a shout.


Poor Chalkboard

Here’s an image of the A-frame chalkboard outside a popular ice cream parlour in Claremont, Cape Town.

Ja. As you may have guessed, I have a few issues with it.

Let’s break it down into two handy statements, shall we?

Coffee as warm as a firefly’s nose.

Firefly is the common name for the Lampyridae family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They’re called fireflies (or lightning bugs) because they use bioluminescence to attract mates at twilight:

The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP and oxygen to produce light.

All of which is biologically amazing, visually incredible and weirdly somehow rather romantic. But the reaction doesn’t yield any significant heat, and it certainly doesn’t happen in their noses (they don’t even have noses).

Fireflies produce a “cold light”, with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. This chemically produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green, or pale red.

Not “warm” then. And certainly not hot (71ºC – 85ºC), which is the temperature I generally like my coffee to be.


And then that second statement:

Ice cream as cold as a polar bear’s toes.

I have some bad news for patrons of this particular ice cream parlour. Ice cream is best served at around -12ºC, while polar bears’ toes (such as they even exist) are maintained at a decent 37ºC, just like the rest of their body.

Polar bears are mammals, brilliantly adapted to their habitat in the Arctic. They have blubber and thick, air-filled fur, which allows them to survive in the sub-zero temperatures in the polar region. Their paws are no exception to this. If they were not kept at 37ºC, the polar bear would get frostbite, which without prompt surgical and antibiotic treatment, would likely develop into gangrene and septicaemia, and inevitable death.

There’s also an additional problem. Polar bears’ toes are smelly. They stink. This is due to prominent sweat glands on their paws, and the fact that that the bears use their feet to tread urine into the ground and ice. It’s simple scent communication, but it’s really not something that I want my ice cream to be associated with.

So. Nice rhyme, but wholly inaccurate. Very poor.
Let’s sort that it for them:

Coffee as warm as the current ambient conditions at The Creamery.
Ice cream served at body temperature, with a slight smell of sweat and wee.

That kinda works, and I bet that brings the customers flocking in.

Thank me later.