It’s Saturday, July 5 and we are positioned on the opposite side of the Fjord to the little settlement of Ny Aleson that we visited earlier in the voyage. When I looked out the dining room window and saw the same architecturally significant concrete grey colored blockhouse from the mining site, I knew exactly where we were.
Opposite the settlement, and our landing site for the morning, is an old mining site where an English company went broke mining marble and shipping it back to London. Apparently it was very fine marble, but here in Svalbard it was mined from frozen rock in the permafrost of the frozen tundra. Once it reached London and warmed, it apparently shattered into worthless shards.
When we landed, we found a couple of huts that are still used, a couple of others where only the original floor joists could be seen in square pattern and one ruin where the only ting that still existed was a large wood fired oven that now sat out in the open. We explored this area with a great degree of interest. Further up the hill were a collection of some of the old steam engines that were used in the mining operations – one horizontal engine and two vertical engines along with a set of old scales that added to the character of the place.
There were numerous other relics to view and photograph including old pipes, drill bits and the remains of an old shed, we could see some reindeer. We tried to approach them, but they could see us and moved further away. Some of the mothers had young calves which didn’t look much older than a couple of days.
We were back on the ship for lunch and then spent a fair bit of time moving to another site to see Walrus. Another ship was already at the site, so we needed to wait until they had moved before we could start landing. Walrus don’t like to bothered by too many people. We went ashore in small groups of twenty or so people. My group didn’t leave the ship until 7.30 pm. We were ashore for an hour or so.
We landed about 300 metres from a haul out of about a dozen walrus and then walked quietly along the beach, in single file. They lay huddling together, as a part of their social life requires close contact. This grey coloured blubbery mass just wallowed in the sand together. They didn’t move much – just the occasional repositioning of a body and constant scratching from flippers. Occasionally one would roll over, or move position, which caused all the others wallow around in a blubbery shuffle to a new position.
It was almost 9.00 when we were back on the ship and sitting down to dinner. After dinner, we had a slide show in the presentation room on deck one. One passenger had captured the polar bear catching the seal on video, along with a couple of other videos. Lars, our Swedish artist, showed off some of his water colours and Nick, our professional photographer put on a slide show of the wonderful photos that he had taken throughout the trip.