July 17, 2013 – Oslo to Longyearbyen
Posted on July 23rd, 2013
We rose at first light this morning (4:00 am at this latitude in summer) and departed on a charter flight in Guardemoen and a scheduled flight in Tromsø. Both flights crossed the Arctic Circle and provided amazing views. As the forests diminished, snow-covered mountains appeared and tundra vegetation became dominant. We crossed the Barents Sea before the stark peaks of Svalbard, which rose from the snow fields and ice caps.
We arrived in Longyearbyen, a village of brightly painted buildings with an interesting small center, a variety of shops, a hotel which provided lunch, and a combined museum and university college. The museum had fascinating displays of the history of the archipelago, including details of the coal mining industry as well as wildlife, hunters and trappers. We learned about the derivation of the name of Longyearbyen from its founding by John Munro Longyear in 1905, who was a miner from the United States. As well as many souvenirs, the museum shop had a very comprehensive book department with a variety of languages.
Outside toward the outskirts of the settlement, one of the most-photographed items were local traffic warning signs; a red warning triangle with a polar bear in profile.
‘Le Boreal’ was docked alongside the main pier about a half mile away. We boarded the ship at 4:00 pm and enjoyed afternoon tea. Meanwhile, the staff distributed our luggage to our cabins where our parkas and boots also awaited our arrival. A parka and boot exchange followed for any sizes and fittings which required adjustment. Before setting sail, we participated in a life-boat drill; following a lecture in the theatre, we met back on deck to see the location of our emergency stations in case the order to abandon ship was ever necessary.
Immediately after this was done, ‘Le Boreal’ cast off to begin a voyage of some 124 nautical miles [145 mile] to Ny Ålesund. After the departure, with views east and west along the fjord, we were back in the lecture theatre where our Cruise Director Jannie Cloete and Expedition Leader Mats Forsberg were introduced. They provided information about the ship and also introduced other members of the staff and crew. The guidelines of the association of Arctic Expedition Tour Operators (AECO) were outlined. Afterward, we enjoyed a beautiful dinner with our fellow guests.
Most people retired early having been up and active since very early in the day. But others explored the ship from deck 2 to above deck 7, discovering three bars and the outdoor swimming pool. Eventually, we returned to our cabins for a comfortable night of rest — our first out on the open sea.