|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 early and had time to explore the town and maybe take a day trip, but many of us arrived just this afternoon, and after being met by Sasha at the airport we had some time to visit the town before making our way to the port to join our ship Plancius. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon as we made our way to the floating pontoon and we were met by Lynn, who made sure we had all our luggage and lifejackets ready to go on board by Zodiac, as Plancius was anchored out in the fjord. It was an easy ride to the ship, allowing us to become familiar with the Zodiacs which will be taking us to and from the shore in the coming days. From the gangway we were shown to Reception where DJ, our Hotel Manager and his assistant Gabor checked us in and we were shown to our cabins by the very welcoming hotel staff. We 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. Out on deck we found ourselves on our way out of Isfjord heading north for the start of our Arctic adventure. The fog that had been around Isfjord all day continued to shroud our view a little but it was beautifully atmospheric as we made our way 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. 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 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. 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 with a mixture of mist and sunshine, spotting Fulmars, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and the tiny Little auks. It was a very pleasant evening on board. Our final job of the evening was to collect our rubber boots from the staff in the boot room. We will certainly need these in the coming days going from ship to shore and back again.