Day 1 |
Jun 16, 2013

 Today’s Port Longyearbyen, Svalbard 

By Luke Kenny, Fisheries Biologist

Co-ordinates: 78° 13’ N, 15° 36’ W
Weather: Overcast, snow showers
Air Temperature: 3°C

Today is turnaround day. The Silver Explorer is berthed in Longyearbyen, by all appearances a frontier town in the Svalbard archipelago. Coal mining superstructures permeate the heavy grey sky; Eiffel towers on a ridge of fractured rocks. I descend the gangway to the quayside and assist my fellow team members. We usher our disembarking guests into buses and accompany them on the transfer to the Longyearbyen museum.

Before perusing the museum, I took a quick stroll up through the town. Sunday in Longyearbyen is a quiet affair. The cold fresh dawn of day hasn’t lifted from the sleepy Saturday night heads of the residents. A dog and its walker stirred here. A Landrover stirred there, with a stubble-jawed frontiersmen at the wheel.

Rows of Skidoos dominated the open spaces between matt coloured wooden clad houses. “Leave your gun at the door” signs watched me from the closed shops.
All around the town the Arctic stood impassive and stern. The vestiges of winter snow clung to the mountain slopes, defiant against the everlasting daylight of summer.

The Longyearbyen museum is a triumph in the interpretive displays of the Arctic environment. The biology and sociology of Svalbard is captured in tastefully laid out dioramas of stuffed wild animals, trappers’ huts and miniature whaling and sealing scenes. A polar bear dominates the central concourse with radiating spokes of seals and Arctic foxes.

I collected my group of guests at 11:30 once our transfer bus returned and we made the short journey to the airport. Here we not only saw off the disembarking guests but Sue Flood from the Expedition Team as well. Replacing Sue is Christian Walter (aka Rapa Nui, as he lives in Easter Island), a Historian. I last worked with Christian over two years ago, when I first joined the Silver Explorer during the Antarctic season.

The arriving guests were transferred to the museum while I returned to the harbour. At this stage the Silver Explorer had vacated its berth as another ship had the dock booked. We began transferring the embarking guests’ luggage via Zodiac, before they arrived down themselves after their museum visit. By now it was snowing. The mountains surrounding the harbour had vanished into the all pervasive white. Four Zodiacs shuttled the guests out to the ship, straight into the blizzard, in many ways a fitting introduction to expedition cruising, or more aptly the Arctic.

Onboard, the remainder of the afternoon passed in the normal embarkation routine of mandatory emergency drills and staff introductions as we began steaming out of Isfjorden and into our Svalbard adventure.