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Poles apart: Microsoft has given an arctic researcher the perfect gift this Christmas – his family

Microsoft brings the gift of festive cheer to glacier researcher Andreas Alexander, working 11 months a year in one of the most remote places in the world

Meet Andreas Alexander; a German glacier researcher based at the University Centre of Svalbard in Norway. At the age of six Andreas crossed his first glacier. At the age of eight he climbed his first 3,000m peak developing a passion for the outdoors and extreme locations that has stayed with him to this very day.

Nowadays, Andreas finds himself at UNIS, the world’s northernmost higher education institution, located in Longyearbyen at 78º N, about 1,336 kilometres away from the North Pole. Andreas first came to Svalbard during the summer of 2014 and moved there as a permanent resident in the spring of 2015 to study Arctic topics at UNIS. Surrounded by ice and snow, with polar bears tapping on kitchen windows as he works, Andreas studies glaciers. He looks at the relationship between ground temperatures below the glacier and the ice above it. He’s also working to finish his Master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and geology.

His work takes him to one of the most remote and beautiful locations in the world so mankind can benefit from a better understanding of glacial ice, and its relationship to changes in ground temperature (for e.g., through volcanic activity).  It’s not an unusual working day for Andreas if he finds himself carrying lots of equipment up onto the glacier, digging out holes, climbing down into ice caves or crawling around the base of the glacier.

But, this incredible research means that Andreas spends 11 months of the year away from home, missing special moments with his family, friends and those he loves dearly.

Stay in touch with your loved ones

For many people, the holiday season equals time with family, but this is not the case for people like Andreas. In fact, there are millions of people across the world working during the holidays. In the UK alone, it is estimated that almost one million people will be working on Christmas Day. Many of sacrifice precious moments with family, be it emergency services staff, humanitarians, or simply those on call.

Technology can actually help friends and family stay connected, not to mention ensure that we don’t lose track of what is happening in the life of those you hold dear.  At Microsoft we acknowledge the importance of helping stay connected, which is why it’s our mission to empower people to stay in touch through the use of technology.

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every individual and organization on the planet to achieve more. To acknowledge Andreas’ amazing work, we sent him a gift of festive cheer… his family! We joined him on a recent expedition, to connect him to his parents and sister. Standing atop the giant ice mass, Andreas spoke to his family back home in Bavaria, Germany, via Skype on his Surface.



There is a general consensus amongst my friends and family that I’m a little crazy because of the work I do! Even though it’s incredibly important to me, it does mean I’m away from home and those I miss the most for the majority of the year, “said Andreas. “That’s why having my family there and the chance to actually show them what I do every day was an exhilarating experience.”

And with OneDrive, Andreas was able to easily manage and share pictures of his recent expedition with friends and family. Here, you can witness how Andreas was able to connect with his family and show them where he works for the very first time.  #fromMsftwithlove

Want to know more about Andreas Alexander? 

While shooting this video, we spent some time with Andreas at Longyearbyen. We sat down with him to find out more about his work, his likes, dislikes, and most importantly, what makes him smile:


Where’s home? Home is all the places where I find myself in good company, having a good time.

What are the two things you couldn’t live without? Fruits, vegetables and Cheese. Okay so that’s three!

What is the first thing you do when you return home? I love the outdoors. I love to go home and stand outside in the sun and in amongst the trees.

How do you start your day? Tea, a lot of tea. I don’t even have a particular preference – just whatever I can get my hands on!

Sun or Snow? Why choose when I can get both? I am definitely more interested in glaciers over hot beaches – which makes my job a lot easier!

Ideal holiday destination? The Alps, or any mountains that have high glaciers.


How do you end your day? I usually shut my laptop and then jump into bed. Of course, I’m very busy throughout the week – usually working 80 hours. However, what it does mean is that I can divide my day how I want. It’s not a 9-5 job – most times I have freedom to actually choose when I do my work.

What keeps you awake at night? Usually I think about difficult and/or potentially dangerous upcoming fieldwork. As anyone would, I get concerned about what will happen, and whether I’ve considered everything. I often think – have I considered everything? This is especially true when I don’t know what the caves will look like.

Trivial Pursuit or Outdoor Pursuits? I’m 100% an outdoor man. I enjoy doing anything outdoors – from walking, skiing, climbing to just appreciating the view with my camera.

What was the longest period of time you spend alone at the glacier? Unsurprisingly, there are several potential threats which make fieldwork dangerous. Things like falling in crevasses, polar bears attacking, months of darkness, getting lost in snow storms or fog or getting nasty frost bites. Therefore, you don’t tend to go alone and if you do – you only go for a few hours.

What makes you smile? Sunshine. It makes it very hard when I don’t see the sun from late October to end February/early March. I also enjoy watching my vegetables grow (even if they grow slowly)!

What was the most dangerous/exciting/remarkable situation you experienced during your studies? Well… there are a few. One example was when I was crawling along a small channel in a glacier cave. The ice around me started to crack and all of a sudden a 2m-long crack started to develop between my legs and below my body. It’s safe to say I crawled for my life! On the flip side – seeing a sunrise from an airplane near the Alps after two and a half months without any sun was definitely exciting.