The Sun at last

Our boat trip lasted about 12 hours and during that time the sky was pretty much clouded over but during our trip back to Longyearbyen harbour the sun finally appeared. The sky turned blue and so of course did the water. The ocean was calm and smooth as silk, I’ve heard that expression before but this time it really moved like silk and was very reflective. I tried to focus on the birds following above us but it seemed impossible, as an amateur, to get the focus right as the birds flew unexpectedly close.

I’m pretty sure the generous shots of whisky provided by our delightful guide Stein only helped my technique. He was kind enough to say that our trip was the most convivial he had guided this year.

Stein from the MS Langǿysund, watching out for Polar bears, sadly we didn’t get to see one.
A bright blue line appeared along the coast, I caught it on camera so it can’t have just been an affect of the whisky.


A Minke whale flashed its white back at us a we sailed past



Pyramiden is one of several abandoned Russian coal-mining towns, there is also Barentsburg which seems to have been larger and more complex. We chose to go to Pyramiden because the boat sails past the Nordensköld glacier.
A busy and fully equipped mining town, it was abruptly abandoned at the demise of USSR in 1998. Here is an excellent site giving full details of its history but these photos demonstrate how it looks right now.
Some of these images were taken with a phone camera but most were taken with a borrowed camera. The charming and kind Lisa lent me her camera to use, with my SD card, because my lovely camera had a hissy fit and decided it couldn’t bear the cold wind, the shutter refused to shut or open unless I removed the lens and kept the body of the camera warm for 10 minutes.

Lisa and Severin are half way through a 6 month tour of Scandinavian countries driving and living in an adapted Mercedes van. What a fabulous trip, I would love to do that. Such interesting people doing such a great thing, and so generous with their camera. (thanks )


Longyearbyen to the Nordensköld Glacier

Taking a boat trip was the probably the best thing we did during our visit to Svalbard.
We sailed on MS Langøysund with our guide Stein (pronounced more like Stain) from Henningsen Transport.

Leaving Longyearbyen harbour

Steaming off around the western tip of the mountain range to the north of the harbour, we saw a few Minke whales as well as lots of different seabirds, even Puffins. The land around seems almost barren with no trees but plenty of grass and moss and in a few weeks there will be colourful shows of wild flowers.


As we passed Bird Rock on the southern side of Sassenfjorden,  thousands of birds were swarming, swirling in the skies and screaming into the wind. A sharp-eyed young man shouted out “there’s a fox” we could just make it out as it ran with a white bird in its mouth, seeking his foxhole for some privacy.


Bird Rock, guano not ice
Nordensköld glacier


These huts are available for researchers to stay in for a few days.
These two people had been photographing sea birds and staying in one of the huts. Our boat will collect them and take them back to Longyearbyen


Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

The town from the South

Longyearbyen is the largest permanent settlement of Svalbard, with a population of just over 2000. It is fully dark for 4 months during the winter, the sun never rising above the horizon. In summer the sun stays well above the horizon 24 hours.  So dusk and dawn only happen in Spring and Autumn. Northern Lights are happening all the time but they can only be seen when the sky is dark.

The area outlined in pink is the “safe” area, where polar bears rarely roam.One can only go outside of that whilst accompanied by a trained rifle shooter carrying their rifle.

We spent 4 days here, beginning with a bus tour lasting a couple of hours, slowly driving around the outskirts and through the town being shown various points of interest, whilst being served traditional dishes from the area. Lamb that had been dried for 6 months,  dried fish and two kinds of smoked or dried pork. All of which were quite chewy but surprisingly tasty, though the fish is definitely an acquired taste.

Later we were served with a large plate of delicacies, including reindeer heart, very tender and savoury, three kinds of smoked fish, mashed swede, and cubed beetroot and pickled berries. All delicious – though I didn’t eat the swede, bad memories from school days. Several cheeses were served last of all along with a small pot of cheesecake made with Norwegian “fudge” cheese.  Artic Tapas Tour

On the road below the last remaining working mine (number 7) in the area, directly East of the town in the Adventalen valley. A shaft of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy few days.


The remains of one of the first coal mines, unusually the strata is horizontal and each coal seam is around 2 metres in height. The town-scape is dominated by abandoned and decaying signs of its earlier coal industry.



Low hanging cloud with the coal seam just visible below.
The university brings a constant flow of geologists and researchers, plenty of fascinating conversations going on in the bars and restaurants.
The church to the west of the centre seen between apartment blocks. All the housing is built to modern standards of insulation.
Geodesic Greenhouse

Ben is an enterprising young man exploring solutions for growing fresh green foods in challenging conditions. He is building an enormous greenhouse to supplement the local diet. The structure is based on Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome. It will be covered with one of three types polythene . Whatever the angle of the sun there will be a panel perpendicular to it  maximising the intake of heat and light. The local temperature rarely exceeds 7C even in summer. The structure available in various sizes from Arctic Dome Greenhouses also has extremely high wind resistance.