Day 1: June 30, 2022 – Longyearbyen
After a 3 hour flight from Oslo, we made it to Longyearbyen and boarded the Polar Expedition Ship a couple of minutes away from the airport. Two Rolls Royce Engines and ice breaking technology, so I heard. We were going to spend 8 days sailing around the Svalbard Archipelago.
Before we left the port, we sat through a health and safety drill with 120 other guests, a bunch of instructions, emergency drills and presentations on how the next 8 days were planned, (up to the weather) – two zodiac cruises, (1.5-2 hours each) and at least 2 presentations a day in addition to photography, painting and sculpting workshops.
I looked around. Photo obsessed boomers clutching high tech cameras and lenses of all sizes while I slowly tucked my little digital camera away and wished I upgraded my iphone. ‘How am I going to get through this?’ My cellular network disconnected immediately.
The gym was closed until further notice. I romanticized reading on the deck in my free time but resigned to the fact that it was extremely cold, my face and fingers numbed up. It took 10 minutes to layer up and get up to the deck from our room. I was already out of my comfort zone. What was I trying to prove? I was freezing in the middle of the ocean.
We sailed out of Longyearbyen towards the Northwestern side of Svalbard at 9:15pm.
Day 2: July 1, 2022 – Krossfjorden
It was mandatory to do a bio security check to make sure our first world nasties hanging onto our clothes and accessories were brushed off before exploring earth’s least polluted quarters. On average, we spend around 20-30 minutes waiting our turn to disembark and 10-15 minutes to gear up. Water proof pants and wellies were a must. Wellies were provided on board.
Off we went on our first zodiac cruise around Lilliehookfjorden, a fjord branch of Krossfjorden that ends by emerging into Lilliehookbreen, a 14km long glacier. Lilliehook was named after a Swedish explorer who commanded an expedition in 1861. Beautiful glacial ice were all over the bay, we meandered towards a rocky islet, a breeding ground for Arctic Terns screeching and flying frantically towards us. Kittiwakes were landing on floating ice, Glaucus Gulls were flying around, Northern Fulmars and Guillemots were floating on water. A sensation for the bird lovers on our zodiac (in fact the entire ship was a bird lovin crowd). The Barnacle Goose brought cheers on their faces. Okay, so what was I doing here? Except for pigeons, watching birds and hearing them is therapeutic but calling out their names was an aspiration for at least another decade. A little overwhelmed, I bought a mini handbook of species we were going to encounter to get stuck in.
After lunch and a workshop on how to work camera settings, we went on the second zodiac cruise. We anchored at Fjortende Julibreen (14th of July), named after the French Bastille Day by Prince Albert of Monaco who came here on expeditions in the early 1900s. The 16km long glacier looked like a mural in contrast to the dark mountain ranges. The water was choppy and like a stage setting, the clouds changed in thickness, on and off sun rays gradually transitioned the color of the landscape when you looked from different angles. We drifted towards the cliffs where Puffins, Guillemots and Gulls of a different type were hanging out and splashing into the water. Cute-ness overload!
Back on the ship, we stuffed our faces and kept to ourselves, did you really think the 116 other guests would want to talk to 4 howling monkeys?
We sailed through the night towards Indra Norskoya.