|Position:||78°14.0‘ N, 015°37.4‘ E|
On this beautifully sunny, stunningly warm day in Longyearbyen, when we made our way to the pier we found out that indeed we were about to embark on an adventurous voyage. Ortelius was at an-chor out in the fjord, and once we had arrived to the small pier we met members of the expedition team who took care of our luggage and handed us lifejackets – our transfer to the ship would be by zodiac. Soon we were crossing the calm waters towards the ship. After we had made our way up the Ortelius gangway, we met the hotel team who showed us to our cabins. As soon as we had set-tled into our comfortable home for the next 8 days, most of us found themselves either on the out-side decks to enjoy the views and the sunshine or in the bar for a coffee or tea.
Soon it was time to gather in the lecture room for several welcome briefings. One was by our Ex-pedition Leader Jan Belgers, another by our hotel manager Dejan (DJ). We were also briefed by Third Officer John on ship safety and how to prepare for the worst. A drill of the general alarm (seven short blasts followed by one long blast) was made, and we all donned the SOLAS orange life jackets and mustered in the bar guided by crew and staff. After a roll call to assure everyone was present we went out to the lifeboats and some of us actually went inside.
We returned to our cabins briefly before regrouping with Captain Mika Appel in the lounge for a welcoming toast of champagne or juice before heading down to the dining room for our first scrumptious dinner prepared by Chef Heinz and his staff. Meanwhile, Ortelius made her way through Isfjorden towards the open sea. Just as we had finished dessert, our Expedition Leader Jan told us that there was a special treat waiting for us: whales had been sighted just ahead of the ship! And there they were, several blows beautifully backlit against the coastline – one, another one, yet another one, and wait, there’s more! With excitement and awe we watched four species of baleen whales – Blue whale, Fin whale, Minke whale and Humpback whale – blowing, surfacing, diving, and the Humpback even breached right in front of us. What an exciting first day, and what a start to our voyage!