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Research on environmental contaminants

After four days onboard the research vessel Oden, Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark arrived in New Ålesund Thursday.

02.07.2008

The Norwegian Polar Institute runs the Sverdrup Research Station and the Zeppelin Station for Air Monitoring and Research in New Ålesund. Several International Polar Year projects are based here.

The Royal party arrived at the Sverdrup Research station Thursday morning and travelled by cable car to the measuring station on Zeppelin Mountain. The Zeppelin Station lies 400 metres above sea level, and is the site where the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) collects its air quality samples. The air that passes through the instruments, is analyzed for greenhouse gases and environmental toxins such as mercury.

Mercury

The amount of mercury waste being discharged to the global environment is on the rise. As a result of special meteorological and physical factors, mercury becomes highly concentrated in the polar regions, and measurements indicate that the mercury levels in the Arctic are mounting. Mercury deposits accumulate in the ground, from which they are absorbed into living organisms This is how they enter the food chain. Mammals high up in the food chain, such as polar bears and humans, are extremely vulnerable to neurological damage resulting from mercury.

(Source: The Norwegian Polar Institute / The International Polar Year)

Lectures in the “Kings Bay” marine lab

The Royal party also visited the “Kings Bay” marine lab. Dr Kim Holmén gave a presentation outlining New Ålesund as a venture point for research and describing the role played by this community in international research and the International Polar Year (IPY) activities. Geir Wing Gabrielsen presented the IPY project COPOL – a study of environmental contaminants in eco systems – another project present in New Ålesund.

The Royal party was also given a demonstration of laboratory experiments in connection with the COPOL project.

Longyearbyen

Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Victoria and Crown Prince Frederik travelled to Longyearbyen on the evening of Thursday, 26 June. The following morning, Crown Prince Frederik left Svalbard, while Crown Princess Mette-Marit joined the party.

The Royal party visited the Polarflokken nursery school, after which they took a walk through Longyearbyen. Then the Crown Prince and the Crown Princesses visited the University Centre of Svalbard, for a presentation on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the project CO2-free Svalbard.

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The Royal Heirs on board the I/B Oden, June 2008 (Photo: Katarina Theis-Haugan, Scanpix, The Royal Court)