Friday 8 August 2014

First Cruise Day

First cruise day! And we woke up surrounded by beautiful blue bits and pieces of glacier ice from the Kongsvegen and Kongsglacier.  
14 lucky ones tied on their crampons and went for a fantastic glacier hike on the Conway-Glacier. 
All the others visited this morning Ny Ålesund, one of the world`s northernmost year-round communities, with about 150 mostly scientists, living there during the summer months (in the winter there are about 30 people). Since 1964, so 50 years already, Ny Ålesund is now a science “town”, but it`s full of mining history as well, as this was the start of the place, when Kings Bay Coal Company initiated mining in 1917.
Several mining accidents with a severe happening November 5, 1962 when 21 miners got killed lead to the closing of the place as a mining community. A white painting of a coffin on a harbor hall still marks that tragedy.. We were heading further into “town” and discovered the old school, the Nordpolhotel, the Svedrup Station and also the house of the famous polar expeditioner Roald Amundsen! He came there in 1925 to make an attempt to reach the Northpole by seaplane, but did not succeed, as they had to do an emergency landing about 136 nautical miles apart from the Pole. Nevertheless, Amundsen started a second attempt with the airship “Norge” and this time they succeeded! But as tragedy is tragedy, he died on the way to rescue his earlier fellow Nobile, who went to the Pole with the Airship “Italia” in 1928. How much history in this tiny town somewhere high up in the Arctic!

In the afternoon we dropped our anker in front of the majestic mountains in Magdalenefjorden, one of the most beautiful spots on Spitsbergen. Beside a just magnificent landscape with high mountains and tall glaciers, this place also tells a lot a bit of a story: one of the largest burial grounds for whalers on Spitsbergen can be found here, with at least 130 graves. But on Trinity harbor something really “alive” happened: Some of us went for a polar plunge! In 2°C “warm?” water the brave hearts went for a dive, neither afraid of the cold, nor the “Greenland Shark”! ;). 
A bit further away, we had a nice view on a bay on the westside of Gullybreen, where we`ve seen walruses lying on the shoreline, digesting and resting. Back on board we went for dinner and did as the walruses, while watching the beautiful scenery passing by as we went through Sørgattet.