Day 6 |
Aug 27, 2011

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway  

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Botanist

Co-ordinates: 78° 13`N, 15° 39`E
Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: 10°C

The sound and vibrations of the bow thruster woke me up, as the Silver Explorer was going alongside in the port of Longyearbyen. It was 7 o’clock in the morning and our last day up here in Svalbard after a long and successful Arctic season. The day was just magnificent, one of those rare sunny, windless and cloudless days in that remote archipelago. For our guests a continuous shuttle bus service was running from the pier to the center of Longyearbyen and from there to the museum. This way guests had enough time and possibilities to explore one of the most northern towns in the world.

Originally Longyearbyen was founded by a gentleman at the beginning of the 20th century, who started coal mining up here. His name was John Longyear. Today the small town inhabits over 2,000 people and survives mainly from tourism, although still some coal mining is going on nearby.

The center is a main road with some outdoor equipment stores, some cafes and the Radisson Hotel. With some luck walking around the town and going up to the church, one can see Arctic foxes and reindeers. Svalbard poppy still was flowering along the roadside although it was already autumn up here in Svalbard.

The most interesting place to go in Longyearbyen is the museum with its fabulous exhibition about the ecology of the Arctic.

At 13.00 the Silver Explorer was leaving Longyearbyen and sailed out the Isfjorden, on course for our next destination: Jan Mayen, a tiny island in the Northern Atlantic. Heading along the fjord our guests could see from a distance the entrance to the global seed vault, which is situated near the airport 130m up on the hillside of the sandstone mountains, using for its facilities a former coalmine.

The next daily program point was the mandatory AECO briefing in The Theatre. Robin West our Expedition Leader gave an introduction on how to behave in the Arctic environment, regarding the animals and the fragile vegetation that we will see on our excursions.

After lunch with guests I went to the lecture of our geologist on board Stefan Kredel, who talked about plate tectonics and geology of the Svalbard area.

For nearly the whole afternoon, my colleagues, especially our bear guards and our marine biologists, were whale watching on the Bridge because the area going from Spitsbergen to Jan Mayen is known for its frequent observations of dolphins and whales. This time we were lucky and could observe three Fin Whales, which were feeding in this upwelling zone and really getting close to the ship so that our guests could see even details of these magnificent animals.

In the evening the First Timers Cocktail Party was held in The Theatre and after that I had a magnificent dinner in The Restaurant with guests from Australia, looking forward to our next adventure on Jan Mayen, but also back on a fabulous season up in this unique place in the world.