Bob Cooper is one of the top leaders at the Swedish mattress company Hästens. Along with 21 others from the company, which has a worldwide sales organization, they have infiltrated the campsite near Svalbard Airport, where they are seeking out those not sleeping comfortably.
"That sounds a bit strange from a company that manufactures mattresses," Cooper said. "But we are on a so-called 'corporate adventure' in Svalbard. Our philosophy is that everything is possible and by moving boundaries, as we are doing on this trip, we do our jobs better afterwards."
A dozen tents arrived Wednesday at the campsite and many more will be there before the solar eclipse on Friday. The reason for the long trip was initially kept secret from its participants by the company's management.
"But the cat is out of the bag," Cooper said. "We go down again the day after the eclipse, which we believe will be the highlight of the whole trip."
What's the motivation for an international corporation to travel to Svalbard?
"There are many reasons for that," Cooper said. "The main thing is to travel to some new frontiers and secondly we think it is it nice to come to a place very few have been or heard of."
Heaven and hell
So far the gang has gotten the Svalbard experience, good and bad. They got into serious trouble when a storm with winds up to 90 km/h struck during the weekend and forced everybody to crawl inside. They have since taken a snowmobile trip to Barentsburg and a dogsled tour.
Johan Ernst Nilson is the only member of the party who has been to Svalbard before. He described his experience as follows:
"Svalbard is heaven and hell at once. The people here are tough who persevere in all weather and in darkness, while at the same time being very obliging and helpful. In sum, it is one of the worst, best, marginal, beautiful and fascinating places on Earth."
Hunting for sun hunters
A German delegation was among the first to settle at the campsite after the storm began. Mathias Hascher is part of a team of six men who are on a mission for the German TV channel Pro Sieben. Hascher's business is all about the solar eclipse.
"We are creating a program that is about those who travel around the world to see for themselves the eclipses," he said. "And then we will initiate a series that will be about a scenario where people envision the sun not coming back after it is gone."
Studying the surroudings
The German, who is from Berlin, expects the team to set up their cameras where there are the most people.
"And then we have scouted out a couple of other places where it may be ideal to see for ourselves what is happening in the sky," he said. "If there is something in the sky then."
Hascher is fully aware chasing eclipses is a game of chance. If thick cloud cover develops, there is a risk of having traveled on wasted journey.
"That is some of what is fascinating about the people who chase eclipses," he said. "The experience is so strong that they bet big money to see something they might not see anyway."