|78°14.5’ N, 11°58.8’ E
Our Arctic adventure began under sunny blue skies, as we made our way to the dock near Longyearbyen where MV Hondius, our home for the next week, awaited.
As we got onboard, we were welcomed by the hotel department and Karolina, the receptionist, who handed us the keys to our rooms. As we were discovering the vessel, we naturally made our way to the observation lounge where coffee and tea were waiting for us, but also where we will have the best view of the surrounding landscape. We anticipated spending lots of time in this space looking out the window, making sure we would not miss any sightings of wildlife, and chatting to old and new friends.
As we set sail, we received a warm welcome and orientation briefing from our Hotel Manager Michael and Expedition Leader (EL) Sara. They gave us an overview of life on board and how to access important information concerning our daily schedules. Then came our first introduction to the Expedition Team who will be helping us to make the most of this adventure with their knowledge of flora, fauna, ice, geology, history and more. Finally, Sara showed Plan A for the voyage – with the understanding that any expedition requires constant making of Plans B, C, D and more as conditions change. With that introduction complete, we attended the mandatory safety briefing.
Sara and Second Officer Sven explained the major risks and how to avoid them. The Expedition Team demonstrated how to put on the life jackets and floatation suits that are stored in our cabins, in the event of an emergency. When the alarm was sounded for the drill, we all made our way to our muster stations, either the Observation Lounge or the Restaurant. Once all of us had arrived, and confirmed that we were wearing our lifejackets correctly, we were conducted to the lifeboats just as if we were abandoning ship. Some took the opportunity to check out the emergency accommodation in the lifeboats. It felt good to know what to do if required. It felt even better to head to Deck 4 for our first visit to the restaurant to sample the delicious food prepared by Chef Gaurav and the galley team.
Thus fortified, we were called down to the shell doors to get fitted for our Muck Boots which turned into dancing shoes as we rocked out with the Expedition Team. As the day drew to a close there were dolphin and whale sightings, and eventually the sun got low enough in the sky to give dramatic “sunset” or “sunrise” colours – but of course it neither set nor rose but just circled the sky. This was our first inkling of how difficult it will be to go to bed. Sleep is useful, but you are always missing something – as Expedition Leader Sara reminded us “sleeping is cheating!”