Day 5 |
Jul 27, 2011

Ny Ålesund

By Franz Gingele, Geologist

Coordinates: N 78º 55.928’, E 011º 55.575’
Weather: Sunny and partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 9ºC
Pressure: 1022 hPa
Wind: Calm

As we approached Kongsfjord this morning we woke up to another brilliant day with blue skies and only a few scattered clouds. There was plenty of time to enjoy a hearty breakfast in The Restaurant before we dropped anchor at 9 a.m. in front of the small settlement of Ny Ålesund. Ny Ålesund used to be a coal mining town during most of the 20th century. In contrast to the deposits around Longyearbyen, the tertiary coal seams here were disjointed and difficult to mine and after a major accident in 1962 that killed 21 workers, the mine was closed down. Now it is the northernmost community in the world with 20 nations running scientific programs and stations in the settlement.

The Silver Explorer anchored only a short distance from the little jetty of Ny Ålesund and with our two large MkVI Zodiacs we shuttled everybody ashore quickly. Then I tied up the boat and joined our guests on a walk through the settlement. First stop was the shop selling souvenirs and chocolate followed by the tiny post office. Past the bronze bust of Amundsen we could find Karolina near the local sledge dogs and Peter near the mast used by Amundsen to tie up his airship. We were requested by the local authorities to stay on the roads and paths, but even there we were occasionally attacked by Arctic terns in defence of their half-grown chicks.

By noon everybody was back on the ship and we were heading a short way north to anchor in front of the 14th of July glacier. After our bear guards scouted the area for possible polar bears, we landed at a safe distance about one kilometer from the edge of the glacier. Everybody was keen to get up on the ice and each of our lecturers took a group along the beach and up the little path that was marked with red flags. After a bit of a scramble up the moraine and some muddy sections we finally walked on ice. Standing on a living glacier we had a wonderful view across the fjord and down to the Silver Explorer. Suddenly, with a big bang like a cannon shot, a piece broke off from the glacier front and crashed into the fjord sending a small tsunami up on the beach. This was the signal for everybody to rush down again, sit down and wait for another calving event.

A few of our guests also took the opportunity to walk to the other side of the beach and have a look at some small bird cliffs and the lush vegetation growing underneath them. Since there were no more break-offs and tsunamis everybody went back to the ship in time to join the Expedition Team for Recap & Briefing for tomorrow’s activities.