"Socks, shoes, pants…where's my camera gear?" Jennie Olsson Qvist asks her mother, Carina, while trying to fill a duffel bag with everything she need to take with her on the five-day beach cleanup group organized by The Governor of Svalbard.
Carina was the one who discovered a message on Facebook by the governor's office seeking an additional person who could replace a participant who cancelled just a few hours before the ship's scheduled departure.
Four applications were received during the short time the message was there and Jennie was the lucky one whose name was pulled out.
"I came up from the holiday home in Sweden yesterday, along with mom," Jennie says, smiling broadly as she searches further in a storage room for equipment. "She will (also) be out on the beach-cleaning expedition because I won trip for her at the telethon last year."
"I had accepted the reality that it was just mom who was going on out on the expedition, so this was incredibly funny."
Could have gone down the drain
Before she went on vacation, Jennie took her final exam at Mid Sweden University. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in environmental science.
"I have applied several times to be involved in the cleanup expedition," says Jennie, who has lived in Svalbard since 2013. "I've thought it would be very useful to develop myself in my discipline."
"Have you found your shoes?" Carina asks as the minutes tick toward the departure of the governor's Polarsyssel vessel.
There's no question they've been blessed with luck.
"The plane from Sweden was delayed yesterday and the plane from Gardermoen waited for us for half an hour," Carina says. "I was worried that there would not be any beach-cleaning expedition at all. And now we instead get to share the experience and that just makes it bigger."
'Both happy and dreading'
Jennie says she most likely will try to find a consulting job addressing environmental issues and pollution, and she is looking forward to a trip with a chance to make a difference.
"I'm both happy and dreading to see all the garbage," she says, smiling as she boards the Polarsyssel, which will take her and other volunteers up to the northwest coast of Spitsbergen. "But to be part of making an effort is enormously huge for me."
The cleanup cruise has been an annual event since 2000 and an opportunity for Svalbard residents to make a substantial contribution to the environment while giving them a nice opportunity to walk along the northern coast.
"The governor's own employees are not able to spend all their time on this, so the volunteers who are there make a very important contribution to cleaning the beaches," says Knut Fossum, the governor's chief environmental advisor.
He describes the work of removing plastic and garbage from the beaches as infinite, and pollution as a chronic problem.
"When you've cleared a beach a few years go by and then it must be cleaned again."
Garbage from all of Europe
Large objects are the priority every other year, while the interim years focus on smaller items.
Fossum says participants finds various garbage brought by currents flowing north, both from mainland Norway and elsewhere in Europe.
In addition, there is a lot of equipment fishing vessels that has been lost or thrown overboard.
"It's said that presumably most of the garbage originates from activity that is not in Svalbard," Fossum says.
He says international cooperation is needed for solving the problem of garbage in the ocean.
"It's not a problem we can solve by pulling off some beach cleaning expeditions."