Day 9 |
Jul 20, 2008

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

By Christian Walter, Historian

Noon position: 78 degrees 13,7’ N and 015 degrees 36,0’ E

Having spent the night at anchor in front of Colesdalen, the Prince Albert II went alongside Longyearbyen’s ISPS pier, the “Bykaia”, at 7 o’clock. A few smaller vessels were at anchor –interestingly quite a number of yachts – and a third of a mile closer to “town” was the Norwegian patrol-boat Nordsyssel, alongside at Sjomradet (=Sea area).

Although a bus had been organized for transfers to the museum and the SAS Radisson hotel, today was a good opportunity to stretch one’s legs without the need of a bear-guide for our protection. The walk took about 25 minutes, going past some of Longyearbyen’s industrial sites: the power plant, the fuel station, the bakery(!), repair shops, the governor’s office, Red Cross, the fire brigade, and – most important of all – the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompanie (Spitsbergen’s Norwegian coal mining company). More than 230 people are employed by this company as miners, while close to 200 of Longyearbyen’s residents are construction workers, some 180 are involved in transport and storage, 150 work in administration, 130 are teachers, social workers, or in the health industry. More than 120 residents work in tourism year round, but today everybody seemed to have taken the day off – well, not everybody: the museum actually opened earlier than usual for us. One of the more unusual exhibits was part of a coal mine, where one could crawl next to a miner, getting a feeling of the claustrophobic conditions under which they had to work. Mining was/is so important that there were two major pieces of modern art along the town’s pedestrian shopping street referring to the workers: one represented a walking miner with part of his equipment, the other showed a miner on his side drilling coal. Without having seen the museum exhibit, this would have been difficult to understand.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that today was Sunday, no shop would open before 12 noon. Was this the reason why it was decided to stay an additional hour, leaving at one o’clock? Before the Prince Albert II left, we had to say goodbye to several of our fellow travelers. Some had only wanted to be part of the Svalbard expedition; others had to return home because of work.

After lunch, Dr. Claudia Holgate gave a talk on “Climate Change”, explaining some of the causes of a global warming, but also giving advice on how each and every one of us could help palliate the effects.

Before it was time for the guests to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails, Camille, the onboard photographer, presented Part One of her recap, showing pictures of the first 9 days of our cruise through Svalbard accompanied by short comments from each member of the lecture team, explaining what it is they like about Norway’s Arctic. Members of the Venetian Society then gathered for a cocktail. Although this was only the third voyage of the Prince Albert II, we already had repeaters on board! Mrs. Lona Anderson and Mr. Michael James had enjoyed the inaugural voyage so much they had decided to return to Tromso less than two weeks after they had left. Despite the fact that the Prince Albert II had been to Svalbard on the maiden voyage, apart from Longyearbyen only two other sites had been on both itineraries. The visit to Svalbard’s east coast had definitely been a new and very worthwhile experience for them (and everybody else onboard).

Although the Venetian Society Dinner gave an opportunity to show more formal dresses, the expedition part of the cruise was not over yet. Conrad had hinted at more explicit information during tomorrow’s recap, especially regarding arrival time as the conditions outside were unbelievable: again almost totally calm seas. Jan Mayen, our next destination, was/is a rarely visited island, and this year only 250 visitors in total were expected to attempt a landing! A leisurely dinner was enjoyed as we traveled westward, gaining one hour and permitting a well-deserved after-dinner drink in the Panorama Lounge accompanied by Daryl’s late-night piano stylings.