|Position:||78° 13.7’ N / 015° 36.2’ E|
Longyearbyen is the capital of Spitsbergen. This former coal mining settlement has a population of about 2,300 and is one of the world’s northern most settlements. 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 as seen in the twentieth century.
With passengers coming from all over the world, arrival days and times into Longyearbyen varied but everyone had some time in the centre of the capital. Some people shopped while other visited 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.
Our expedition ship and home for the next week, Ortelius was alongside the pier of Longyearbyen and we arrived at the ship at 16:00 ready to start our Arctic adventure in Spitsbergen. We were met at the gangway by members of the Expedition Team and in small groups we went on board to check in at Reception with our Hotel Manager, Michael and Heidi, the Assistant Hotel Manager. We were shown to our cabins by members of the hotel department and were soon settling into our accommodation.
Our stay on board started with a short briefing from Michael about our home for the coming days. This was followed by a very important safety briefing, done by the Third Officer Louis about abandon ship procedures and how to react in case of distress signals. We then had to put the theory into practice with a full drill during which we collected out orange lifejackets and gathered at the muster station in the Lounge bar. We were also shown to the lifeboats. It is always good to know such things, and hopefully not put them into practice!
It was then time for a formal introduction to our Expedition Leader, Nathan Russ who explained a little bit about the forthcoming trip and introduced us to the rest of the Expedition team. With our champagne glasses filled we all toasted to our great adventure ahead with Captain Mika Appel.
After a great dinner, prepared by the chefs Przemyslaw and Roden, we were soon sailing out of the large fjord of Isfjorden to start our journey north. 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 and carved by recent glaciers to display beautiful U-shaped valleys. There was one last task to do before heading to bed and that was to collect boots and life jackets ready for our first activities in the morning. There was some motion on the ship so most people went to bed early while the ship sailed into the open sea towards the North.