Thursday, August the 27th
Busy, busy, Barentsburg
What a start: arriving in time, missing luggage piece and finding them in another cabine, getting a blue jacket, safety drill, dinner and then some minutes to relax. We arrived at our first destination -Barentsburg, east of Longyearbyen – at 8 pm. Barentsburg is a Russian Mining town since 1932, when the Russian company Trust Arktikugol took over. During the time of the Soviet Union Barentsburg was a flourishing town with excellent living conditions; they had their own farms producing the meat and also fresh vegetables. Still nowadays the infrastructure is quite good for the 400 inhabitants. The most beautiful building is the school (40 pupils) and the kindergarten (20 children), decorated with lovely paintings by young artist from St. Petersburg. One of the most important buildings is the brewery and in the hotel we got the chance to taste the beer. After the guiding tour we were invited to attend a wonderful show performing Russian dancing and singing in the cultural- and sports-centre. This first day was a busy and impressive start of the voyage.
Friday, August the 28th
Places of the past
We started with landing in Ny-Ålesund one of the most famous towns in Arctic region: a mining town, housing in former days the most northern post office and of course the place where the airships to the North Pole started. Ny-Ålesund was a coal mining town from 1916 to 1929 and again from 1946 to 1962 when the mine was finally closed after several serious accidents. In the 1920s Roald Amundsen was very interested to fly to the North Pole. First he tried with two Dornier Wal flying boats, unfortunately with no success. The arrived only 87°41’N where they had an emergency landing - but they managed to survive and returned. The next try started in 1926 with the airship Norge constructed by the Italian Umberto Nobilé. Nobilé, Amundsen and the American sponsor Lincoln Ellsworth were on board the successful drive. The mast which held the airship before starting is still standing outside Ny-Ålesund. Today the town is an important research place with around 20 international research stations. Some of us were on a Polar Circle Cruise surrounding the island Bomstrandshalvøya for the first time.
Our next landing was at Gravneset in Magdalenefjorden. Beside the historical traces of the former whale-hunting time, four blubber ovens and a huge graveyard, which were in use for 200 years from the 1614, we enjoyed the wonderful view direct towards the glacier and the icebergs. Some of us took the opportunity to take a refreshing swim in the sea. In the evening started another Polar Circle Cruise towards Virgohamna, which is an important historical side today remaining the balloon-drives by Andree and Wallman.
Saturday, August the 29th
Heading towards Greenland
A wonderful sea day, time for relaxing, bridge visits and lectures. We heard about the “Birds of the Arctic”, “The Pointy Mountains of Svalbard”, “The Sirius Dog Sledge Patrol”, “Polar bears” and the history of Svalbard. The sea was calm and everyone was excited to reach the ice edge.