|Position:||078°14’N / 015°35’E|
Longyearbyen is situated at 78° north and, as such is one of the world’s most northerly settlements. It grew up as a coal mining town but now is home to around 2,000 residents who live and work here all year round. This number temporarily swells during the summer months with the arrival of thousands of visitors on cruise ships.
Some of us had arrived a day earlier than our departure day on board Plancius and had time to explore the town and maybe take a day trip but many of us arrived at the airport during the afternoon and after being met by Ali at the airport we had some time to visit the town before making our way to the port to join our ship for the coming trip.
By the time we arrived at the floating pontoon the weather had changed considerably with strong wind and snow. It was going to be an interesting Zodiac ride to our ship Plancius that was anchored in the fjord. Sasha and Laurence got us into our lifejackets and we boarded the Zodiacs.
It was very bumpy and wet as we made our way to the ship and conditions at the gangway were challenging but our drivers ensured we all got on board safely, if a little wet.
From the gangway we were shown to our cabins by the very welcoming hotel staff and found our luggage already there. We had some time to familiarise ourselves with our cabin before we were called to the Lounge for the mandatory safety briefing which was given by our 3rd Officer Luis Oroceo. This gave us all the information we needed about safety on board the ship and prepared us for the lifeboat drill that was to follow. We heard the abandon ship alarm and gathered at the muster station, the Lounge, wearing our big orange life jackets, the only time we hope to be wearing them. After the roll call we were taken out to the lifeboats to see where they were located and how we would embark if required.
We lifted the anchor and were making our way out of Isfjord heading north. We met in the Lounge once again and had a briefing from our Hotel Manager, DJ who explained some of the procedures on board Plancius, our home for the week. It was then a chance to meet our Expedition team who will be guiding us safely during our voyage here on Svalbard. We have an international team on board with a wealth of experience both here in the Arctic and Antarctica Our Expedition leader, Michael Ginzburg gave us a little more information about our plans for the trip. He showed us an ice chart and it was clear to see that the pack ice is a long way north this year so in order to find the bears we hope to see on this trip then that is where we must go.
The hotel staff served us champagne and canapes before we met with our Captain Evgeny Levakov who explained a little bit about our forthcoming trip.
It was then time for dinner, which was a chance to meet with our fellow passengers.
With 24 hours of daylight many of us enjoyed some time out on deck during the evening spotting Fulmars, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and the tiny Little auks. It was a very pleasant evening on board.