Day 9 |
Aug 30, 2010

Longyearbyen, Svalbard; At Sea in the afternoon

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 78 º 14 N, 15º 36 E
Weather: sunny, partly cloudy

This was the last stop of the Prince Albert II in the Svalbard Archipelago on this voyage and the last one for this season. Our guests had a little bit more than half a day in Longyearbyen to enjoy the Spitsbergen atmosphere, visit the museum and do some shopping in the numerous stores in the center of the town.

On time, at 7.30 hours, the Prince Albert II was at the pier of Longyearbyen port. Clearance of the vessel took only half an hour and at 8.30 the first shuttle bus brought our guests into the center of the town. Members of the Expedition Team were positioned at the museum, and in the town center to assist the guests in finding their way around town or to give them information.

The museum in Longyearbyen is real a highpoint of a visit here. It has an excellent exhibition on life and nature in the Arctic, and gives the visitor information on the ecology of the region as well as on the traditional life and current scientific work, like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Longyearbyen was founded by Mr. John Munro Longyear, who came up to this area with his family on a cruise ship in 1901. He was so enthusiastic about the possibility of coal mining in this area, that he bought land from a Norwegian company and in 1903 founded Longyear City. Walking around in town one still can see the construction of the cable cars that brought the coal from the mines into the harbor. Today only one mine is in use. Others are closed or used for other functions like, for example, for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This vault is located just one kilometer from the airport half way up on the slope in a former coal mine. The aim of the vault is to preserve seeds of food and agriculture plants from all over the world. At this stage, around 400,000 samples with 500 seeds each are stored in the vault.

Today Longyearbyen is the capital of Svalbard and the Sysselmann, the governor of Svalbard has its office here.

In the afternoon the Prince Albert II was at sea and as we were sailing south towards our next destination, Jan Mayen, my colleagues Christian Walter and Colleen Batey presented their lectures in The Theatre. Christian talked about the early explorers, the difficulties that they were facing and the new techniques they were using exploring the world in the early days. It was mainly the Portuguese and the Spaniard seafarers who, in the 15th and 16th centuries, were dividing the globe or the newly discovered lands between them.

Colleen’s lecture was about “The World of the Vikings”. She gave a broad survey of the great expansions from Scandinavia that took place in the 8th century, reaching Newfoundland in the west and Istanbul in the east.

In the evening, Expedition Leader Robin West gave a short briefing to our guests about tomorrow and my colleagues Robin Aiello, Sue, Colleen and I held a short recap regarding fossils in Svalbard, birth of a cub Polar Bear, clothing of the former whalers and the Svalbard Seed Vault respectively.

After Recap & Briefing, dinner was served in The Restaurant and our guests enjoyed calm seas and the delicious menu from our galley.