Monday 8 August 2011

Longyearbyen and Barentsburg

Abandoned buildings in Barentsburg

Our morning started with an important information session in the hotel. We met a member of the Expedition Team from Fram who provided us with key information about life on the ship and safety and proper conduct during landing operations. 
Mural in Barentsburg
At 11:45 a motor coach picked us up ast the hotel and brought us down to the small harbour in Advent Fjord.  Fram lay at anchor about three hundred meters off shore which meant that we had our first experience in the Polar Cirkel boats.  Once on board the ship we were checked in, issued I.D. cards and then escorted to our cabins.  A sumptuous buffet lunch was ready for us in the dining room. 
At about 14:00 we lifted the anchor, turned our bow to the east and made way for Barentsburg, a Russian coal mining community in Isfjorden.
One of the murals on a school in Barentsburg
Large sign in Barentsburg
We arrived in Barentsburg at about 16:00.  We disembarked the ship in language groups where we met our local Barentsburg Russian guide.  The first stop on our tour was the Polar Star Theatre for a really superb live performance of Russian folk dancing and songs.   After the performance our guides told us about life in the an isolated coal mining town and showed us points of interest such as the hospital, the school and the hotel.
After the 35 minute tour we were free to roam about on our own.
One might think that a coal mining town high in the Arctic would be a dreary place but the opposite is true.  There are beautiful murals adorning many of the buildings. 
While it is true that many of the buildings are abandoned and in various states of  decay, the Russian architecture has a distinct warm charm and the abandoned buildings lend a special and unique atmosphere to the entire community
All aboard was at 19:45 and shortly after the last person set foot on the ship, Fram was underway.  At 21:00 we had a compulsory safety drill.  It was obvious watching the crew that they had rehearsed this many times before.
Now we are heading almost due north.  Tomorrow we hope to arrive at our northernmost destination.