|Position:||78°13.8’ N / 015°36.10’ E|
|Wind:||wind from NW, Force 6|
Around one o’clock in the afternoon all of us were in Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen. This former coal mining settlement has a population of about 2,300 and is one of the world’s northern most settlements. We were taken to the town, while our luggage was being sorted out and brought to our cabins on board of the ship. This gave everybody a chance to see the town centre and the excellent museum in the large modern university building.
On display in the museum is the whaling history of the archipelago and plenty of information about wildlife, early exploration and World War II.
Longyearbyen is named after the American, John Munro Longyear (1850-1922), one of the founders of the Arctic Coal Company (1906-1916). Coal is still produced in a mine near Longyearbyen but not in quantities like in the twentieth century. Our expedition ship and home for the next week, the Ortelius was anchored in Adventfjorden and members of our staff and crew drove us with Zodiacs to the ship. Our stay on board started with a warm welcome in the lecture room by hotel manager Robert with a useful speech about the ship, from basic rules about toilet system to high tech wifi and internet connections. We also heard a bright safety briefing by third officer John about abandon ship procedures and how to react in case of distress signals. This was followed by an exercise with gathering at the muster station. Always good to know such things, and hopefully not put them into practice!
We then gathered around our expedition leader Rinie who introduced us to the rest of the team and we all toasted to our great adventure ahead with Captain Ernesto Barría. After a great dinner prepared by the chefs Christian and Mathew, we were sailing in the large fjord of Isfjorden. On both sides of Isfjorden flat-lying sedimentary rocks only 45–60 million years old were exposed, very young compared to most other parts of Spitsbergen, carved by recent glaciers to display beautiful U-shaped valleys. As we were leaving Isfjorden towards the open sea, the wind picked up and we rapidly felt the ship’s movements. Tired after the long journey and the new impressions, the bunks were quickly found while the ship sailed into the open sea towards the North.