Dr. Anne Elina Flink
Glacial Geologist and Polar Guide
Anne did her MSc and PhD in marine glacial geology at the University Centre in Svalbard, where she spent five years studying the Holocene history of Svalbard’s surging tidewater glaciers and the deglaciation of the Barents Sea Ice Sheet. She obtained her Phd in 2017 from the University of Bergen and has since worked as a guest lecturer and a polar guide. Anne has wintered at Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, where she worked as a field guide and spent two summer seasons guiding scientists on the Antarctic Ice Sheet. She is a passionate ski-tourer and mountaineer who enjoys painting mountain landscapes and writing stories.
Meet Anne, before the expedition
Where are you right now and where are you originally from?
I am currently in Luleå, a coastal town close to the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, where I have spent most of this summer living off the grid in the forest, the mountains and the archipelago. I am originally from a small town in south western Sweden.
What is your job?
I am currently working as an environmental consultant for AFRY in Kiruna.
Can you describe yourself in 3 words?
Determined, Funny, Tough.
What does “Climate Sentinels” mean for you?
To me the Climate Sentinels project is a way of connecting with the public in order to raise awareness of the rapid climatic change that is currently taking place in the High Arctic.
What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
I am very excited to be part of an all-female project that is not only a classic endurance based polar expedition, but also a scientific field campaign. Even today, very few scientific expeditions in remote regions are entirely run by women and I hope to inspire young women to pursue careers in the STEM-fields and to spark an interest in polar expedition work.
Is there anything that scares/worries you about the expedition?
I always worry about the potential for horrible weather when I travel in the polar regions. Storms, extreme temperatures and lack of sea ice will make the trip much harder, both physically and mentally. So fingers crossed for sunny skies.
What are you most excited about with this project?
I love spending time in the nature and testing my physical and mental limits. I am very excited to carry out polar science the “old way”, without the use of airplanes/snow scooters or helicopters. I also know that we will have a lot of fun as a team during the journey.
Meet Anne, after the expedition:
Where are you right now and how has your life changed since Climate Sentinels?
I am in Antarctica at the moment, working for Viking Expeditions as one of their field research coordinators. The field research coordinator is in charge of all scientific activities on board and runs the onboard science program in collaboration with Vikings scientific partners.
We run many different scientific projects on the ship, ranging from biology, oceanography and chemistry to glaciology. It has been challenging to set up the research projects on the first new Viking Expedition ship Octantis, but this is potentially a paradigm shift in how science in remote areas is done, since cruise ships can offer a great platform for scientific research, particularly for multi year monitoring programs.
If you had to summarize Climate Sentinels in three words, what would they be?
Challenging, fun and innovative.
If there was one moment during the expedition that you will never forget, what would this moment be?
One thing I will never forget was when we were in the snow caves and I went out to pee in the storm and fell halfway into a crevasse. Luckily it was a very narrow crevasse, so I managed to stop myself with my arms and crawl out. It was such an ironic moment though. Never feel safe even if you just go out to pee a few tens of meters away from your snowcave. I'll remember that forever.
Before leaving for the expedition you mentioned that "horrible weather" was a big concern of yours. In hindsight, did you ever get scared about the weather experienced during the expedition?
The weather was certainly horrible for 2 weeks straight. It was actually much worse than I had expected. I would not say that I was ever scared, since I think we handled it well and made the right decisions. Had we not made those decisions it could have very quickly developed into a scary situation. It was exhausting to work in the weather conditions that we had and I was honestly done when we reached Pyramiden half way through the expedition. Luckily the weather improved from there on (It turned into normal Svalbard weather, instead of consecutive 25-35 m/s storms). I think we would have had to reconsider the rest of the expedition if the weather would have stayed the same.
What have you learnt from this expedition? About yourself/the team/the climate
I was very surprised over how much Svalbard has changed since the first winter I came there 10 years ago in 2012. Certain sections of the route we skied used to be popular snowscooter routes and we even took students who have no previous snowscooter driving experience along those routes. This time I was happy I had skis under my feet, because some of the glaciers have melted so much that their fronts are now very steep.
Would you like to embark on another expedition with these crazy ladies again? And if yes where?
Yes I would definitely like to embark on another expedition and I am hoping we can sit down soon and make a more structured plan. I am hoping that the next expedition will go to the Himalayas. This is a hot spot for black carbon produced by human activity in the large cities of the region and also an area where melting glaciers will have a huge impact on peoples daily lives. Most of the Himalayas are still very remote and a carbon neutral scientific expedition would be a great way to reach these areas whilst collecting scientific data and raising awareness of the environmental issues affecting the Himalayas.