06-01 Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen centre with a monument to the coal miners

1st.June: Longyearbyen, embarkation day

Date: 01.06.2023
Position: 78°12.60’ N 15°32.6’ E
Wind: NW 2
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

Svalbard Airport, Longyear, located 3 km from Longyearbyen, is the only airport offering air transport for the island. Scandinavian Airlines has daily scheduled services to Tromsø and Oslo. Residents of Spitsbergen do not need visas for Schengen but are prohibited from reaching Svalbard from mainland Norway without them. Citizens of any treaty signatory country may visit the island without a visa, but being British (outside Schengen) I was carefully controlled and had to show my Swiss residency. My journey was otherwise uneventful and despite snowfall in Tromsø there was beautiful weather on my arrival.

Many of the guests arrived at Longyearbyen on the day of embarkation. Throughout the afternoon, guests were arriving at our new home for the coming days: M.V.Plancius. Because the other berths were occupied by larger ships we had to use the ex-coal harbour. Before sailing there was time to explore the town.

Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the island, the seat of the governor, and the only real town. It features a hospital, primary and secondary school, university, sports centre with a swimming pool, library, cultural centre, cinema, bus transport, hotels and several museums. There are also the remains of an abandoned coal mine.
Tourism is focused on the environment and is centered on Longyearbyen. Activities offered include hiking, kayaking, walks through glacier caves and snow-scooter and dog-sled safaris. Cruise ships generate a significant portion of the traffic, including stops by both offshore vessels and expeditionary cruises like ours starting and ending in Spitsbergen.

Once on board the time went by quickly as we were busy with familiarisations, safety briefings, and a mandatory lifeboat instruction. I of course met my room mate for the next week. He was a (relatively) young man from China, Beijing, who had spent some time in England. Photography of the wild-life was a common interest for us. The blue whale and 3 of the polar bear photos shown here are from him.

As we set off out of Isfjord in the evening, and northward towards our first scheduled activity of the trip, there was time to enjoy the views of the flat table-topped mountains in the late evening light.
Then, after departure, we had an introduction to the ship from our hotel manager. This was followed by captain’s cocktails, where our expedition leader Ali also introduced herself and shared the plans for the voyage. After a lovely first dinner on the ship, most of us went to enjoy the views outside while the ship was cruising, or went to bed early, after this long day.

Isfjoren and Longyearbyen

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