After a long-awaited departure (a few years for some of us) we finally land in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. The pull of the Arctic; its’ varied landscapes, history, the fascination of ice, flora and fauna plagued by a harsh climate, the anticipation of encountering wildlife and birds only seen in the Arctic draws visitors from all corners of our planet. Our ship for the next 8 days, the M/V Ortelius, brings us together to explore the pristine environment of the high Arctic. The Ortelius lays at anchor in the middle of the bay, so our voyage starts off already in expedition mode. The Expedition Team is waiting for us at the jetty and we get a first taste of wet and cold Arctic weather during our first zodiac ride to the ship in choppy conditions. The welcoming Hotel Team is waiting for us however and we soon settle in to our comfortable and warm cabins. When everyone is onboard and we have had the chance to get a warm drink and meet some of our fellow passengers, we gather in the lecture room for the mandatory safety briefings quickly followed by the safety drill. At 18.30 we come together for an introduction of the Expedition Team, and a glass of champagne and welcome toast with our Captain Mika Appel. The energy is high and the excitement for the upcoming voyage is palpable. After a delicious first dinner and some last moment provisioning of the ship, Ortelius finally leaves the port and takes us away from civilisation. Most onboard, except for some night owls, are ready for a good nights’ rest after all travel and first impressions. While our sturdy vessel makes her way out of sheltered waters to start the journey North, we have no other choice but to acquaint our bodies with the movement of the waves. Not everyone will sleep calmly, but this will soon be forgotten when we arrive at our first destination the following morning.