Day 8 |
Jun 20, 2012

Barentsburg, Svalbard 

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 78º03'48", E 014º12'05"
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 4ºC
Pressure: 1008 hPa
Wind: 17 knots

Despite the slightly bumpy ride yesterday during our day at sea, the Silver Explorer made good progress on our journey from Jan Mayen to Svalbard. Thanks to that good speed we were sailing into Isfjord this morning, ahead of schedule, at about 9 am.

As we sailed through Isfjord Luciano Bernacchi presented his “Ice is Nice - An Introduction to Glaciers”. In this informative lecture Luqui explained how glaciers are formed, how they behave and where they are found.

Just before lunch we had to make a technical stop in Longyearbyen to pick up our bear guides and the equipment that we will be using this season as part of our polar bear safety program. During lunch the Silver Explorer sailed west, and just before the fjords mouth we turned south into Grønfjorden to go explore Barentsburg.

This Russian mining town is the closest to Longyearbyen, and although it was not a scheduled stop, since we had extra time in our hands, our Expedition Leader and Captain decided to take the opportunity to do something additional.

In its beautiful setting in Grønfjorden, the town is in stark contrast to the landscape around it. Barentsburg differs from Longyearbyen in being a community based around its dominant industry: mining. But there is also a small tourism industry represented by a hotel, a souvenir shop and a museum. For many visitors it is interesting to just walk the streets, look at the architecture and maybe meet some of the locals.

The population has declined from 2,000 people a few decades ago to less than 400 today and as a result there are a lot of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. It is always a strange experience to visit here. To me, Barentsburg is one of those “love it or hate it” kind of places. Interesting and almost surreal.

Our guests had a few hours to walk around, visit the Russian Orthodox Church, check out the Pomor and Geological Museum, to shop and just wander the streets enjoying the atmosphere of this historically and architecturally significant settlement.

Right before dinner the Expedition Team hosted a Recap & Briefing where, aside from a recap on the history of Barentsburg and its coal, Robin explained our plans for tomorrow in the spectacular Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. I am very excited about tomorrow. It should be a ton of fun.