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Internships in the PermaRICH project on permafrost in Svalbard

Duration and timing of internships: 14 days/2 working weeks/75 working hours.
Timing: from August 2024 (the dates must be agreed).
Support for travel (up to 8000 NOK) and living costs (up to 21000 NOK).
Salary: a basic salary will be available for the 2 weeks of work.

Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen

In the PermaRICH research project short for "Advanced Mapping and Monitoring for Assessing Permafrost Thawing Risks for Modern Infrastructure and Cultural Heritage in Svalbard" we like to invite students for two internships focussing on permafrost in Svalbard.

Coal mining constitutes the heart of Longyearbyen's history and identity.  While no longer in use, many of the objects from the coal industry are protected cultural heritage, which include coal mines, transportation lines and special structures such as tightening and turning stations. Some of those structures and their assemblies are characteristic elements of the landscape in and around Longyearbyen, whose include The Central turning station (Taubanesentralen in Norwegian, see figure at the bottom right) and the system of cableway posts (taubanebukker in Norwegian, see figure at the bottom left).

Cableway posts were used as the structures supporting the transportation lines delivering coal from the mines to harbor in Longyearbyen. The Central station was used to direct cars with coal to the loading facilities in the harbor. Both, the Central turning station and the cableway posts are objects of cultural heritage of highest antiquarian value, and they are protected by the law.

These industrial structures, as most of the infrastructure facilities in Svalbard are located on permafrost, and hence there is a concern that they can be affected by climate change. This is especially because those structures were originally constructed without knowledge of climate change and were not constructed for eternal life.

For the Central turning station, it is unclear how deep the foundations are, are they reaching bedrock, and what are the ground conditions. Knowledge on sediment conditions would be the basis for analysis of stability of this structure in relation to climate change.

For the cableway posts the situation is even more complex as those structures are under several impacts that may threaten their existence. They are affected by timber decay (the material they are made from), settlements due to degradation of permafrost, impacts due to natural hazards (such as landslides, snow avalanches, river flooding), and urbanization. Some of those hazards, for example landslides and permafrost degradation, are intensified by climate change. In addition, observations show that the structures themselves may affect permafrost by trapping snow under them, which initiates two different processes. Firstly, trapped snow decreases winter cooling of the permafrost, and that leads to warmer permafrost. Secondly, increased amounts of trapped snow lead in some cases to bogging, and hence initiation of thermokarst. Both processes increase degradation of permafrost by the cableway posts, which in several cases has led to significant settlements and ruptures of foundation elements.

Up to now, about ten of the cableway posts have been restored, approximately 30 structures were lost due to various natural hazards and urbanization, and approximately 160 structures are standing in the conditions as they are (various degree of conditions). It is expected that some of the remaining structures will be restored.

The restoration process requires data on sediment conditions under or in proximity to the structures. So far for restoration projects, the sediment conditions were assumed to correspond to the conditions of the surrounding terrain. However, the latest ground investigations done by drilling that were performed at several locations by the cableway posts and the Central turning station, has revealed abnormally dry and warm permafrost, which had a thicker than normal active layer. This creates concerns about how the foundations were built and how the building process affected the sediment conditions. The following questions arise:

  • How were the foundation pits created: Were they blasted with dynamite or dug out?

  • Which material was used for backfilling around the cableway posts: The original material after blasting/digging or material brought from somewhere?

Internship 1: Process of building the cableway posts and the Central turning station in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

The aim of this internship is to investigate how the building foundations of cableway posts and the Central turning station were done. The work will be based on analysis of archive materials.

Location: to be decided (tentatively, SINTEF premises in Trondheim, Norway).

Internship 2: geotechnical soil analysis for the cableway post and the Central turning station in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

The aim of this internship is to analyze and deliver a description of the sediment characteristics by three cableway posts and the Central turning station in Longyearbyen. This will be based on material/sediment obtained from the recent sampling and earlier performed analyses of sediment from the Longyearbyen area. Analyses of sediment samples will include tests for index properties (water content, grain size distribution, Atterberg limits, salinity, density of soil particles, chemical analysis (results of chemical analysis will be provided).

Location: SINTEF premises in Trondheim, Norway.

Applying: When applying for these internships please provide information about your study background and what skills you have to fill the internships.

The following will be emphasized when offering the internship:

  • CV and academic transcript

  • Previous work experience and academic background

  • Personal qualities, as described in the application letter

  • Motivation for applying

  • We reserve the right to conduct interviews with the highest-priority candidates.

Contact information: For questions regarding the internship and to apply for it, please contact the internship host at SINTEF Research scientist Anatoly Sinitsyn (

For questions regarding the application and supervision please contact Hanne H. Christiansen ( at the University Centre in Svalbard, UNIS, who will act as supervisor for the internships.

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