Arctic Adventure

When it comes to finding the best stories about The University of Texas at Austin, the Alcalde will go to the ends of the earth.

For this issue’s cover story, we took that editorial philosophy quite literally. When we heard that graduate students and faculty from UT’s Jackson School of Geosciences and Cockrell School of Engineering would be traveling to Norway’s Svalbard islands in the Arctic this summer for the field trip of a lifetime, we just had to be there.

The annual eight-day expedition has been hosted by the Norwegian petroleum company Statoil since 2001. This year, UT was the first non-Norwegian university asked to join the trip, which aims to give future geologists and engineers hands-on experience in one of the world’s best geology field sites.

Our intrepid assistant editor Rose Cahalan jumped at the chance to accompany 58 students and 17 professors to Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town.

To prepare, she scoured outdoor stores for as much windproof and waterproof gear as one can find in August in Austin. She also read Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, The Bradt Travel Guide to Svalbard, and of course, Geology for Dummies.

Once in Norway, the group spent their nights aboard a cruise ship listening to lectures and their days hiking through stunning terrain. From Longyearbyen, Rose and the crew embarked on daily geologic excursions in a part of the world where there are more polar bears than people. Suiting up to go ashore took about a half hour each day. “It felt a little like launching into space,” she says. Before climbing into the inflatable zodiac boats that took the explorers across the frigid ocean each day, she put on several layers of thermal clothing, rubber knee-high boots, a helmet, and a life jacket. Her backpack held other reporting essentials: a recorder, notebook, camera, more clothing, water, food, and chocolate for sharing (and enticing people to grant interviews).

The result of thousands of miles of travel and hours of interviews with UT’s leading geological minds is one epic scientific adventure. Many of the photographs in the article were captured by students on the trip, and we’ve taken the story even further with a rich interactive version that you can find at

What I think you’ll find from reading the story is how remarkable it is that University of Texas students and professors were included in this trip into one of Earth’s last great frontiers. Of all the world’s universities to invite to study this remote part of the globe, they chose Texas. What you will also experience is the joy that happens when a great story lands with great storytelling. That’s what we are about at Alcalde, and we will go to the ends of the earth to deliver it.

Tim Taliaferro

Photo by Hans Nakrem.


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