I’m just back in the door a couple of hours ago from a fantastic few days visiting the International Polar Research Station at Ny-Alesund on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.
Ny-Alesund is deep inside the Arctic Circle and at 79 degrees north, it is the most northerly permanently inhabited human settlement in the planet.
My reason for going was that over the past two years at Westminster I have been involved with the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Polar Regions and I was fortunate enough to be one of just 5 MPs invited to go on the trip.
I have always felt Scotland’s attention should be fat more focused to the north and I was keen to better understand the politics and the geography as well as the science of the Arctic.
So when I was afforded the opportunity to actually go there, I jumped at the chance.
We went as guests of the British Antarctic Survey and NERC (Natural Environmental Research Council) who, along with scientists from a host of other countries, also based at Ny-Alesund carry out a wide variety of observations, tests and experiment around the very obvious effect of climate change in the Arctic and the future consequences for the rest of the planet.It was an absolutely wonderful few days and one which I will never, ever forget.
While we were there, as well as attending lectures with some of the world’s best climate-change scientists we managed to climb on to a glacier, take a boat the the foot of a colossal ice wall and see whales, polar bears, artic foxes, reindeer and a pod of walruses.
On the downside however, we were also able to see for ourselves the evidence of how far the glaciers have retreated and at a time when it should have been -10, the temperature at the start of September was actually a degree or two above freezing.
One of the nicest things to come out of the visit however, was the unanimous praise for SAMS, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, which is based in Oban.
Without exception when someone found out that SAMS was in my constituency, the praise for the exceptional work SAMS do and the contribution SAMS make to the scientific understanding of the Arctic was fulsome.
Not even the absolutely exhausting 36-hour journey home by a boat, two busses and three planes could in any small way, cast a shadow on the experience of a lifetime.