|Position:||78°13.8’ N / 015°36.10’ E|
|Wind:||wind from NW, Force 3|
Longyearbyen is a former coal mining settlement with a population of about 2,300 and is one of the world’s northern most settlements. It was named after the American, John Munro Longyear (1850-1922), who was 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 early part of the 20th century. The settlement is situated in a beautiful fjord and with such clear sunny weather as we were experiencing it was a fabulous day to enjoy the views across the fjord and up to the head of the bay.
With embarkation not until 4pm there was plenty of time to explore the small town, either visiting the fabulous museum or taking a walk along the shore to the dog kennels where a large number of Eider duck and Banacle geese can be found on the ponds. Some people had been further afield on bus tours and dog tours but whatever the activity the warm sunny weather conditions were perfect for it.
Our expedition ship and home for the next week, the Ortelius was alongside the old coal dock, ready to welcome all of us for an exciting journey! There was a little delay in embarkation as the fresh food provisions arrived at exactly the same time as us so we waited while the staff and crew loaded the most northerly bananas, melons and pineapples!
Once on board we were met at Reception by Michael and Heidi and shown to our cabins by the friendly hotel staff. Shortly afterwards, once we had started to find our way around the ship we were invited to the lecture room on Deck 3 where Michael gave us a useful speech about the ship, from basic rules about toilet system to high tech wifi and internet connections. This was followed by a mandatory SOLAS, safety at sea briefing which was given by our Third Officer, Warren and outlined our abandon ship procedures and how to react in case of distress signals. This was followed by a practice drill where we collected our big orange lifejackets and gathered at the muster station in the bar to be checked off the list. It is always good to know such things, and hopefully never need to put them into practice!We then gathered around our expedition leader Jim 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. 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.