One Week Into Their Overwintering Stay on Svalbard, Hilde and Sunniva Have Already Faced Challenges

The Bamsebu [Bear’s nest] is located at 78 degrees north. The area is rather inaccessible both in summer and in winter. Photo credit: Hearts in the Ice 

The lack of fresh water and firewood could be among Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sørby's biggest challenges this winter. 

Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sørby will overwinter on Svalbard at a 20 square meters’ trapper cabin from 1930 located 140 kilometers south of Longyearbyen.  

High North News told their story earlier this year. 

They will be away for nine months, from September 2019 until May 2020.

On September 13th, they departed rom the Coal Pier in Longyearbyen, accompanied a powerful performance by 14 men from the “Store Norske Mannskor” (a local all-male choir) - sharing songs and folklore from Svalbard’s rich history.

Press from all over the Arctic was also present, including The Big Story, an American documentary film team; Scandinavian Traveler's Inflight magazine, Canadian Geographic-RCGS, Firbeint Film, Nanouk, Travouge, Sven Olaf Sundgaard-Borton Overseas, Fabulous, Love Exploring and Team Joss Stone.

Lack of water

In their blog they tell about how the first week has been.

"The days have been busy with unpacking, reorganizing and finding space for our personal and collective items. We have taken a few boat trips to surrounding beaches to collect logs and been busy cutting, chopping and stacking our heat source for the winter. We still do not have enough wood to see us through the cold, dark winter months ahead so more work awaits us. Water is also an issue and we will keep collecting fresh water wherever we find it." 

The 6-hour sail to VanKeulen Fjord and Bamsebu teed up operations for an early start the next morning to offload volumes of items needed for the Hearts in the Ice overwintering. Photo: Hearts  in the Ice

Strøm and Sørby have had great success with their communications equipment, but lost all power from the device for about 48 hours when the battery died and would not charge - likely because it was left out in the cold.

"Everything here has its own temperament and adaptability – problem solving skills require patience and persistence." 


The Hearts in the Ice-project will be Strøm and Sørby's  contribution in the fight for nature and the climate challenges the world is facing.

Together with a series of cooperation partners and sponsors, an important part of their wintering stay will be sharing experiences and knowledge they acquire through living completely isolated and in keeping with nature. 

They are to do measuring for scientists, try out new and environmentally friendly technology, report on weather and ice conditions as well as supply information to NASA.

And the ladies have not been on the lazy side. Already a week into their stay, they have collected insects for the Børge Damsgårds project through UNIS as well as collected the first saltwater and phytoplankton samples for Alison Cusick at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.


"We have a lot of work to do here and we take it all seriously, " they say in their blog, but reveals "we also play and have gone running, danced to Motown music, had our red wine and eaten potato chips while watching Pretty Woman and Indiana Jones."

With only a few weeks left before they lose the daylight, they ask themselves: 

"What will I see when I cannot see, shutting out the earth light to give way to the starlight and the moonlight?"