On With The Journey

I finished my time in Iceland on Monday, June 23, with a walk around the city of Reykjavik. . It was very quiet seeing that it was Sunday morning. I wandered down by the harbour and found some interesting vessels, one of which was a whaling ship that was out of the water on a slipway for maintenance. Nearby were three identical ships (although only one was maintained – the others looked like rusting hulks). They had a strange looking faring on the bow and it wasn’t until I could see harpoons on the deck that I realised that these were the whale catchers. The ship on the slip way was the factory ship. They were certainly relics from a bye gone day and they were full of character for photography.

My plane from Reykjavik was an hour late, so I didn’t get into Oslo until after 10.30 pm. The hotel was only 150 metres from the airport terminal building so I was quickly into my room and asleep. Today’s (Monday June 24) flight left Oslo at 10.00 am and arrived at Longyearbyen in the Svalbards at 2.30 pm after a 45 minute stop in Tromso.

When we arrived in Longyearbyen, we had to spend an hour or so looking around the town before catching a shuttle to the ship. This is the only town on the island of Spitzbergen which is the major island of the Svalbard Group. The temperature when we arrived was 3c but the wind chill factor probably reduced that to well below zero. I was actually surprised to find such that it was such a big village. There is a large hotel a small shopping centre, complete with coop, a research centre and a number of tourist shops. Of course, there is a defunct coal mine which was the original reason for the existence of this town. The mine site is now occupied by a power station which generates electricity for the local area. The valley in which the town is situated looks to be very old glaciated valley. It is a bit reminiscent of Ushuia in Argentina from where I started my Antarctic trip.

I am now aboard my ship, the Acamedic Ioffe, which seems very familiar and so it should as it is the sister ship to the one on which I travelled to Antarctica in 2006. After boarding, we had some time in which to settle into our cabins. I am sharing with Graeme, a retired high school teacher from Toowoomba. We have already had our compulsory life boat drill and have finished dinner. I know two of the crew, who both remembered my face from my Antarctic Trip – John Rodstad, the photographic leader on the ship, and a very vivacious young lady named Carolina, who comes from Patagonia. She was one of the zodiac drivers then, but is now deputy expedition leader. We were introduced to all the expedition staff over dinner. They range from a doctor, chef, geologist, marine biologist and a few other general hospitality staff. I think that we may have about 80 passengers. I’m just writing up this journal note before heading off to bed. We have 24 hour daylight here and I don’t want to be too late. I can’t really make sure that I am ‘back before dark’

The published plan of the voyage has changed already. The information that we had received told us that we would circumnavigate the Svalbards in a clockwise direction. However, we are going the other way as there is still a lot of sea ice in the north and the idea is that if we start by going south, some of it may have melted by the time we reach the northern area of the archipelago. I could see some ice from the plane. It looked like large ‘pancake shaped’ circles of ice with open water in between.

Well, it’s goodnight from me and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow when we get to one of the most picturesque fjords in the area.