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Royals visit Arctic research stations

University of Copenhagen plays host to crown princes and crown princess - in Greenland

The three heirs to the thrones of Denmark, Norway and Sweden defied Arctic weather May 28-30 to discuss climate change and to drill for ice on the inland ice pack.

It all started out on a calm and sunny Thursday. The three heirs, Crown Prince Frederik from Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria from Sweden and Crown Prince Haakon from Norway were welcomed to Arctic Station on Disko by Professor Bo Elberling, Institute of Geography and Geology.

The station is the first permanent station in the Arctic. It was established more than 100 years ago and is now one of the University of Copenhagen’s research sites for monitoring the effects of climate changes in Greenland.

On the agenda: A royal discussion on recent climate changes and climate feedback loops, in particular the effect of thawing permafrost and future greenhouse gas emissions.

Bo Elberling was “impressed by the guests’ knowledge and interest for the topic”, he says.
The royals got the opportunity to listen to the sound of bow whales – one of the current research projects at the Station. After that it was time for a walk.

The early onset of Spring is one the recent observed changes in the Arctic. This was evident on this sunny day with the royals seeing singing birds, clear sky and an almost snow free surface.

Weather shift
But the Spring weather did not last.

The group continued to an ice core drilling camp on the Greenland ice pack. Heading to the camp with the Hercules transport plane, »the weather suddenly began to act up. Fortunately, despite low clouds and poor visibility, the plane could just manage to land,« writes the Niels Bohr Institute.

The three heirs are not new to daring joint visits far off the beaten aerodrome. Last year they visited the Arctic island of Svalbard together.

Royal publicity
The visit was not just for fun, but to herald the impact of greenhouse gas warming on glaciers, industry and arctic life, explains Minik Rosing, a geologist at the University of Copenhagen, who helped to organise the trip.

»We hope that they (the royals, ed.) will raise awareness about what is occurring,« he says.

Lively discussions
In addition to the royal guests there were representatives from the organisations from the International Polar Year (IPY), patrons for the IPY’s National Committees in Norway, Sweden and Denmark as well as scientists from the USA and Canada. In all, 31 people visited the camp.

The crown princes and princess went down into the drilling hall, where the researchers bore ice cores through the almost three kilometre thick ice cap. Researchers explained to them about the drilling, how to construct a camp in the middle of the ice cap, and about global warming in the past and in the future, »all of which awoke great interest and lively discussions,« writes the Niels Bohr Institute.

Slept in tents
After this, the royals took a ride out on snowmobiles to see how a landing strip is constructed and maintained out in the middle of the ice cap.

»The rest of the evening was relaxed and pleasant with a nice dinner and dancing into the wee hours – a tradition on Saturday night in the camp. The royal guests slept in tents and bunk beds like the rest of the people in the camp,« the institute writes.

At ease
Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen of the Niels Bohr Institute, just back from Greenland, calls it »a magnificent and successful visit.«

Camp leader at the drilling camp on the ice pack, ice core researcher Jørgen Peder Steffensen, says that the residents of the camp had worked hard to make the visit a success, and writes in the camp log that »everyone felt exhausted, but enriched« afterwards.
»I would like to express my gratitude to our guests who demonstrated a great appreciation of our work,« he says, adding that »their relaxed manner helped everyone in the camp feel at ease.«