Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ny Ålesund

Ny-Ålesund in the distance

We arrived in Ny Ålesund at 08:00. The small settlement was originally established as a coal mining operation.  After the collapse of the coal market in 1957 and a series of serious mining accidents the mines were closed in 1962. Since 1964 Ny-Ålesund has been a centre for international Arctic Research and environmental monitoring.  More than 10 countries conduct research here.  During the summer months the population swells from 30 to 150 people.
Exploring Ny-Ålesund
It was a cool morning with overcast skies, excellent weather to go for a short walk guided by the Expedition Team through town.  as we strolled through the village we learned not only about the mining history but also about the great aviators and explorers that are an important part of the history of Svalbard and Arctic Exploration.  Our tour ended at the mooring mast that Amundsen,  Nobile and Ellsworth used to tether their large airships which they would use to reach the north pole.

Old locomotive that was used to haul coal in Ny-Ålesund
Wildlife was in abundance.  Just behind town we could see reindeer grazing.  Around the outskirts of the settlement we saw lots of sea birds including nesting Arctic Terns and one exquisite Ivory Gull.  Certainly one of the most beautiful gull species in the world.

There was ample opportunity to explore the museum, the information centre, to write post cards and to splurge on souvenirs in the gift shop.

Most northerly post office in the world
At 11:00 we were all back on board.  We cast off our lines and began the journey back to Longyearbyen. 
In the afternoon the lecture series continued with talks on ice, polar explorers and whales.  The skies continued to be overcast and the seas were calm.  It was a perfect day to relax and reflect upon everything we had seen and done so far while exploring Svalbard.