Day 10 |
Aug 01, 2011

Alkhornfjellet and Longyearbyen

By Franz Gingele, Geologist

Coordinates: N 78º 14.022’, E 015º 36.305’
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: 5ºC
Pressure: 1018 hPa
Wind: Calm

On our way down from northern Svalbard we enjoyed a calm night and woke up to a morning of a glassy, mirror-like ocean. Unfortunately fog was the price we paid for the windless conditions and we could hardly see the end of the ship. As we approached Alkhornfjellet, our morning destination, the fog started to lift and the sun shone from a blue sky. I quickly jumped into a Zodiac together with Chris, our Bear Guard, and started to scout the shoreline for polar bears. Suddenly a slight breeze sprung up and started to push the blanket of fog back towards the land. Within minutes we were enveloped by dense fog and had to turn back to the ship. In these conditions a landing was out of the question, because polar bears could easily approach unnoticed. So we tied up our Zodiac near the platform and waited for better conditions, hoping that the rising sun would burn off the fog.

At 9:30 a.m. Juan, our geologist, gave a lecture “Geology 101”, introducing us to the basics of earth science and the natural history of our planet. By the time he was finished, the fog had gotten even thicker and we took in the Zodiacs and started heading for our anchorage near Longyearbyen. On the way, a ship’s drill and general alarm was conducted and at 11:30 a.m. Richard Sidey, our ship’s photographer presented his still and motion picture DVDs of this trip, showing fantastic footage of our voyage.

As we approached Longyearbyen, more and more ice floes appeared and finally we dropped anchor in front of the pier. Unfortunately we could not go alongside, because the pier was taken by another expedition ship, and then by a freighter. Luckily we have our Zodiacs and a shuttle service was established which ran until 11 p.m.

There was also a shuttle bus from the pier into town, connecting the various attractions of Longyearbyen like the museum, the town center and supermarket. Many of us took the chance to be back in civilization and see other human beings or simply go shopping after 10 days of wilderness. It is a good way to get reacquainted with the normal life including cars, shops and other humans!