Journey to Norway

A rock face with the word "Bergen?" affixed to it

This is the sixth in a series of posts by Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Janet R. Voight as she heads out on an expedition to Norway. There, she and colleagues will look for a wood-boring clam, Xylophaga dorsalis, to study its, well, poo. Read the first post and stay tuned for upcoming posts to find out what they discover.

Yesterday was a long day. I left home at 10:30am after getting a text saying that potential runway work would not slow my plane into Boston’s Logan Airport, where I was to meet Reuben Shipway, a postdoc at Northeastern University and an expert on shallow-water wood-boring clams. I brought with me the maximum baggage allowed and started my journey in Chicago on the CTA.

My bags and I met up with Reuben after only a couple of “insurance hours”—that is, the hours I spent at Logan to ensure that, regardless of flight delays or bags not arriving, I would make the second leg of my trip. Two and a half hours later, we boarded our flight to Oslo and settled in for the 7.5 hours in transit across the Atlantic, trending North. Upon our arrival in Oslo, the airport and the immigration officer were both welcoming—which was nice, as we spent another four hours there waiting for our flight to Bergen.

norway_pic_2.jpg

A black and white cat on a grassy hill in front of a red house

We (and our bags, which by now seemed to form a bigger pile every time they got together!), got into a taxi at the Bergen Airport and asked to go to the Marine Station. The driver didn’t know where it was, but I anticipated this and made sure Reuben’s smartphone, which works internationally, had the directions. We drove on two-lane blacktops amid sheep pastures, which I figured must be miles away from the Station. Amazingly enough, we made it on the first try, and are now here at the Marine Station! 

Greeting us on our arrival was...no one. After a 22-hour journey, we got in after office hours. We piled our bags near the front door, removed our shoes as instructed by the signs, and looked for someone. Arna, a student working at the station, rescued us. She phoned someone and talked for a while in Norwegian, then said our rooms were waiting in the next building. We walked to the other building, took off our shoes again, and found rooms with our names on the doors, just waiting for us!

Arna also kindly provided information on the buses we planned to take to the grocery store (one cooks for oneself here). The big news was that they stop running every night about 7pm, and it was already after 5:30 (even though it felt like 10:30 to me!). With the walk to the bus stop, finding the grocery, shopping, getting the return bus, it would be impossible to get food that night.  

To save the day, in stepped Henrik Glenner, a professor at the University of Bergen and instructor of a faunistics course with 22 students. He apologized that, despite having trawled for a week, he and his students had yet to collect wood with the wood-boring clams we plan to study. But on the bright side, he invited us to dinner! I suddenly understood how my cat feels when he gets an unexpected treat. We had a delightful dinner with great conversation about marine invertebrates and were ready for bed by 8:30.

Now, the only troubling things are that Henrick says it is unlikely we will find our animals; they are too rare and unpredictable. The larger boat is committed for all but two days of our planned stay. But really, we only need to hit it big once and we will have plenty of clams to study (like the gambler at the slot machine I suddenly realize!).  

Read on in Part 7: Planning and Prospects: Will We Find the Mysterious Clams?

Funding for this project was provided by the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies established by a grant from the Tawani Foundation.