Co-ordinates: N79º48.8’, E11º29.44’
Weather: Overcast with some drizzle
The first day of the cruise! Today was a typical embarkation day with guests starting to arrive at about 1:30pm. It was wonderful to see many ‘repeaters’ at registration – guests that I had travelled with before on previous Silversea cruises onboard the Prince Albert II. And, of course, it was wonderful to meet a whole lot of new guests who were new to our expedition ship.
Once everyone was onboard, we were ready to continue on with the mandatory Safety Drill, Zodiac Briefing and AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) Briefing. It is a lot of information for the guests, but it is all needed in order for us to run a safe and environmentally friendly cruise around Svalbard.
Just as Robin finished, the ship pulled away from Longyearbyen and we all gathered out on deck for sail-away and to enjoy the dramatic landscape of the fjord.
Later in the evening, just before dinner, we met again in The Theatre for the Staff Introductions and Destination Briefing. First, Robin West, our Expedition Leader, introduced the Heads of Departments and then each of the 13 Expedition Team members got up for a few minutes and introduced themselves. We have a very diverse and experienced team for this cruise:
- Robin West, Expedition Leader from South Africa
- Jarda Versloot, Assistant Expedition Leader from Holland
- Christian Everts, Staff Assistant from Germany
- Chris Srigley, General Naturalist & Bear Guard from Canada
- Juan Restrepo, Geologist from Colombia
- Colleen Batey, Archaeologist from the UK
- Sue Flood, General Naturalist from the UK
- Christian Walter, Historian from Easter Island
- Hans Peter Reithaler, Botanist from Germany
- Karolina Karas, Bear Guard from Longyearbyen
- Lasse Ostervold, Bear Guard from Norway
- Kristine Hannon, Photographer from Belgium
- And myself, Robin Aiello (or just ‘Aiello’), Marine Biologist from Australia
After the staff introductions, Robin once again took to the stage and briefed us on the plans for the cruise – to circumnavigate the entire Svalbard archipelago!!! This would be only the second time ever this ship has done this (the first time was last cruise). The only reason this will be possible is because there is no ice in the northeast section – a good thing for us, but a sad thing for the environment. In fact, the ice this year has receded earlier and more than any other year we have been up here!
Robin went on to tell the guests that tomorrow we were going to make two landings – one at the 14th of July Glacier, and one at Ny Alesund. All of us went to dinner in high spirits and excited about the next 10 days!