Tempelfjorden cruise...

Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
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Trip End Jul 07, 2006


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Friday, June 30, 2006

Just a few hours after finishing my walk, I was picked up along with a Swedish guy and taken to the harbour, ready for a six hour cruise to Tempelfjorden. I was really looking forward to this because the weather was fine, and I wanted to get out and see the scenery that I'd glimpsed on the flight over from Tromso...

Once again, it was a fairly small group with no more than twenty people onboard, a relief because the boat was relatively small and would have been crammed had the maximum number of seventy been there. Most of the people who visit Svalbard are from Norway or Sweden, and this trip was no different as I was the only person whose first language was English. It seems that Svalbard is something of a hidden gem, a place that is well known amongst Scandinavians but certainly not amongst the English, and I must admit I quite liked that...

The first point of interest came when we passed the bird cliffs in Isfjorden and saw many different species, my favourite being the cute little puffins. It was amusing watching them flapping about in the water, and diving into the sea when they noticed that the boat was coming! I was thankful for my binoculars at this point as I used them to get some good close up views of the birds nesting on the cliffs.

The guide on the boat was exceptionally well informed and knowledgeable, as well as being ultra enthusiastic. This cruise was to be his last before moving back to the south of Norway, and you could tell he was a little reflective as he'd spent the last three years in these parts and did more than 300 cruises.

His daughter was onboard too, and they told me about their chance encounter with a polar bear and its two cubs when travelling on the frozen Isfjord in the middle of winter. They were on their snowmobiles so it wasn't a dangerous situation, and I couldn't help but be extremely envious of what must have been an unforgettable experience.

I palled up with the Swedish guy for the mostpart because we were nearly always outside, despite the cold, while some of the others stayed indoors. It was probably about 3 degrees but the guide and crew seemed positively warm - they were hanging around in shirts whilst we were all wrapped up, trying to benefit from the heat generated by the barbecue, which incidentally was very nice indeed. Temperatures of -30 degrees are the norm in winter, so this was the equivalent of a hot summer's day for the locals!

For most of the journey, I was in awe of the scenery because it was a 360 degree view of snow covered mountains. I'd not seen anything like it before, and I even took a short video clip of it with my camera because although photographs look nice, they don't capture the vastness of it all. In fact, as we approached the gigantic Von Post and Tuna glaciers, the ever informative guide told me that they were over 20km long, which is simply mindboggling.

We couldn't go right up to the glacier's face because the water was too shallow for the boat, but I was happy with the view we had as the adjacent mountains were completely visible, creating an awesome sight. A seal swam past us too which was nice, before we slowly turned around and made our way back towards Longyearbyen.

Of course the sun doesn't set in Svalbard at this time of year, and it actually barely dips at all. So at midnight it was a strange feeling being in full light, with the sun peeking through the clouds and patches of blue sky even on show. It's great having 24 hours of daylight, but the flip side is that it stays dark for a full 3 months in winter!

It was past 1am by the time we got back to base, and I was pretty tired after a long but amazing day. I needed to get some sleep because I was doing a potentially more difficult walk the following morning, and I wanted to be in good shape for it...
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