''Expedition Svalbard II'' Voyage 7116 Day 1

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Day 1 - July 23, 2011 - Tromso, Norway

By Peter W. Damisch – Historian, General Naturalist, Cartographer & Polar Bear Guard

Co-ordinates: 69o 39’ S, 018o 58’ E
Weather: Overcast and little wind
Air Temperature: 10o C / 50 o F
Pressure: 1015 HPa
Wind: 15 km / hour


Today is “turn around day” in Tromso, which is always a busy day for everyone on board Silver Explorer as we are moored alongside the dock right next to downtown Tromso on the northern coast of mainland Norway. We arrived yesterday from a fantastic voyage to the Svalbard archipelago and Bear Island where we conducted a landing, a very rare occurrence, something that is accomplished by less than 300 people per year.

This is a day to be up just a bit early, and, after chatting at breakfast with some of our wonderful guests from Switzerland, I made my way down to the dock alongside the ship to join the rest of the Expedition Team. Here we assisted our departing guests with their luggage to ensure they are properly transferred from the ship to busses going to the airport.

It is also a sad duty to say goodbye to so many new friends developed over the past 11 days. We have experienced so many wonderful sights during our travels; numerous polar bears, walrus hauled out on remote beaches, stupendous glaciers and many bird species with numbers almost too numerous to count. All too soon we hugged and said our good byes.

I always marvel at how hard the ship’s crew works to perfectly prepare Silver Explorer for our next group of guests who will be coming on board in just a few hours. Fortunately I had the chance to greet individuals newly arrived from many countries, new friends with whom I look forward to sharing my passion for the polar regions.

However, I did get a brief break during midday. Of course, being a Silversea Expedition Team member, I had carefully considered my options in the limited time available. Being a Silversea Historian, I headed directly to the fine Trondheim Library to conduct additional research. My hopes for finding further material on Amundsen and Nansen, two of Norway’s polar heroes, were amply rewarded. Even a few hours provided new information and nuances that will help me convey the human side of the polar environment, the explorer’s challenges, successes and failures.

The cobblestone streets and sidewalks of Tromso passed by as I walked along the waterfront back to the Silver Explorer. The balance of the afternoon was spent assisting guests to be quickly checked on board – passports, suite key cards and pictures for their ship’s access card.

Soon enough it was time for the internationally required shipboard safety brief and lifeboat drill given by our Expedition Leader. He also took the opportunity to give the briefing regarding Zodiac operations, which allowed us to be just a little bit ahead of schedule and fully ready to begin landing operations as soon as possible. This will hopefully come at the stunningly beautiful Bear Island, our first planned stop for the upcoming voyage. Everyone on the Expedition Team, including myself just love this place as there are over 1 million nesting birds that live on towering sea cliffs along the ocean.

Soon enough the Captain announced our departure over the public address system and with a blast on the ship’s horn we began our departure towards the north. The Captain expertly maneuvered the ship off of the dock, which is located adjacent to the primary bridge connecting Tromso with the outside world. Almost everyone was out on deck and I had a great time answering questions from our guests about the upcoming voyage and local wildlife.

The first part of our Arctic voyage takes the Silver Explorer through the most northerly fjords of Norway and everyone just wanted to stand outside for quite some time just soaking in the tremendous beauty of the area.

We are already quite far north of the Arctic Circle and every minute carries us closer towards the Pole. Tonight I hope everyone dreams about the wondrous sites of the far Arctic that we hope to see over the next 10 days.

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