Thursday, 25 July 2013

We're High in the Arctic!

No.  Not that kind of high.  Give us a little latitude.  We're so high that were you to try to find us on a globe we would be under the brass cap.  Our journey started in Longyearbyen and already we were at 78.xxxx N.  While it is one of our goals to exceed 80˚ N, we begin our journey on a heading that will take us south to the very unique Russian coal mining town of Barentsburg. Barentsburg is located at 78.0667 ˚N. 

We arrived at the pier just after 20:00.  The tide was very low which enabled us to use the gangway on deck three.  Upon disembarking we assembled in language groups on the dock beside the ship where we met our local Russian guides and the Expedition Team.

 Mining for coal started here in 1916.  Ownership of the mines changed hands a couple of times but was resold to a Russian company in 1932.  The Russian influence is felt from the moment you step on the pier. Many of the buildings reflect the styles of architecture in vogue in Russia at that time.

Now Barentsburg is a community of approximately 450 people.  Many of the buildings are abandoned and in a state of decay.  It definitely has a feeling of a ghost town except people live and work there all year round.

Upon completion of a 30 minute tour of the community we were invited to a beautiful old  theatre where we were entertained with Russian folk dancing and singing.  It certainly wasn't what one expects on a trip to a Norwegian Arctic archipelago.  The performers, four Russian guys and five women were all amateurs and all held regular jobs related to the coal mine.  Despite their amateur status they put on an excellent show.