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 the old Coal pier close to the airport. The Expedition Team is spread out at several locations throughout town to await those of us who accidentally end up at the wrong pier. Buses take us to the Ortelius where the welcoming hotel team is waiting for us and after a long couple of days 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 19.00 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. During dinner Ortelius leaves the port and takes us away from civilisation. It’s a beautiful, calm evening and some off us spend some time on the outer decks enjoying our departure into the wild of the high Arctic. 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 settle in for a peaceful sleep.