And Even Further North...

Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Flag of Norway  , Svalbard and Jan Mayen,
Sunday, July 12, 2009

From Iceland I flew to Oslo and spent the night at the airport hotel.  Nothing special, but easy.  On Sunday I flew to Longyearbyen which is the main settlement on the Island of Svalbard above the Arctic Circle.  It was a beautiful day and at one point the pilot announced that we were passing by Bear Island and that this was one of the very few times it has been clear enough that he has seen the island.  And as we were coming into Longyearbyen I had beautiful views of glaciers, lakes and fjords.  

I had booked a ten day expedition cruise around the island and decided to spend a couple of nights in Longyearbyen before boarding the ship.  I stayed at the Spitsbergen Guesthouse which was formerly used as housing for miners.  Longyearbyen was a mining settlement but it has recently been promoting tourism in the area.  The mining history is evident all over town and although the blocky rooming house buildings aren't particularly interesting architecturally, at least there is some color used here!

The landscape around the town is stark and raw.  There are no trees this far north although the flowers are plentiful, albeit very low to the ground.  The main attraction for tourists here is polar bears.  There is a stable population of about 3000 bears in the Svalbard area and if you plan to venture from any settlement there are dire warnings about possible polar bear attacks.  My hostel was on the outskirts of town and I wondered if it was dangerous to walk to town...never did see a bear there but I did see an arctic fox!  Very cool!

Despite the warm weather in Longyearbyen, I was nervous about whether I had enough clothes for on the ship - the wind chill on deck would be a factor.  I had bought wool longjohn bottoms in Iceland for the whale tour and decided I should buy a top just in case.  Needless to say, I got a lot of use out of both while on the tour!
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