Furry fat and short-legged little devils


A number of optical instruments waiting for the darkness at Kjell Henriksen Observatory, Svalbard

The Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO) in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, hosts a number of optical instruments that are often used in combination with radio instruments. The Sun will set on the 27th October with the next sunrise being on the 15th of February, 2018. So, road markers with reflectors are a must: when it is dark and a sudden arctic storm with horizontally blowing snow limits the visibility to 10-15 meters, the relief of finally seeing the next marker on the way back is enormous...

Once we have more than a few centimeters of snow, only few of the road markers are visible

The demolition I faced on Monday was absolutely the worst so far: there were long sections where all but one marker was on the ground. Indeed, the furry little devils had been busy. Those who have seen the mainland reindeer, picture a small, fat and short-legged reindeer and you have a  Svalbard reindeer. There is a similar spark of intelligence in the eyes, too, if you know what I mean.

Unlike their mainland cousins, the Svalbard reindeer have no trees around. Well, trees that are taller than a few centimetres to be more exact. In any case, the reindeer regularly use antenna masts and other convenient things such as road markers for scratching the velvet off their antlers in the autumn. I simply cannot imagine that a smooth plastic pipe would be any good for scratching. They probably think — I am using the word "think" loosely — that the next road marker may work better and just move on.

In any case, I have several tens of road markers to fix before the dark. Lucky me.

EISCAT Svalbard Radar with a couple of Svalbard reindeer trying to look not guilty

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