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> July 14, 2006 - Rifle and Survival Suite Training
post Jul 14 2006, 02:51 PM
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Today we started the day off with rifle training. This is necessary because the polar bear danger is very real. Just 2 days ago, there was a bear in the town of Longyearbyen near the airport. The people were able to scare it away with a flare gun. The rifles that we use are Ruger M77, and hold 4 rounds I wonder if they are made at the Ruger manufacturing shop in Prescott? Jorgen was our instructor and like many people at UNIS, he was serious and direct. He taught us how to load, clean and shoot the rifles. The biggest concern is actually not bears, but bullets. We have to follow very strict rules about when (and when not) to put bullets in the rifle. Basically, if there are no bears in sight, we do not have bullets in the rifle. If you have never shot a rifle before, you would be surprised at the feeling of such a powerful weapon kicking into your shoulder. It really makes the adrenaline rush!

Learning to Shoot Lying Down
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Inspecting the Targets
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We also learned how to use a flair gun. This is used to scare a bear away but you must be careful not to shoot past the bear, or the bear will hear it pop behind it and run toward you! This would be bad! There are also signal flairs for emergencies that streak red through the sky. I hope that if we have to shoot anything, it will just be a flare to scare a bear away. It would be really scary and sad to shoot a polar bear.

We also learned about how to survive in the cold water of the Arctic Ocean. Survival suites are used to keep you warm and floating. They are huge and orange, include built in boots and fit really tightly around your wrists and face, and zip up the front. Water will get in, but if you get as much air out as possible before you go in, then the water will not rush in to fill the air space that is left. That would be really bad, because then your suite would fill with water and you would not float anymore! We climbed in our suites and jumped into the cold, salty water.

Swimming in our Survival Suites in the Harbor
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Some of us really got into it, and spent as much time as possible in the water. It was incredibly comfortable to lay back and look at the sky. We all had to form a large circle so that if we were in a storm with big waves, we would not loose each other. We did this with cables and carabineers attached to our suites. We then had to maneuver around and swim to shore as a large group. Some of us liked it so much that we went back into the water several times; we were so excited to swim so close to the north pole!

Question of the day: Since the Svalbard children live so close to the North Pole, where do they think Santa Clause lives?

Answers from previous days:
1. Oslo latitude/longitude: 59.55N, 10.45E
2. The International Polar Year is already busy before it starts in March 2007. There are conferences all around the world concerning polar issues, climate change and international policies. There will be activities all around the world too. Go to http://www.ipy.org/about/events/ to learn more!
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