20/21/22nd June Longyearbyen

Fri 22 Jun 2018 20:13

20/21/22nd June Longyearbyen


Tuesday was spent in the very smart newly refurbished library and adjoining coffee shop with lovely loos. The boys were very tenacious in their research and (after several hours) Peter managed to find a 10 year old manual for the engine online, so the boys could work out which parts they needed, and make various phone calls with limited success but some leads.

Virginia and Lizzie purchased coffee and cakes and later found yesterday’s cakes at the knock down price of NOK 25 (£2.50) for three as opposed to NOK 40 for one, so we had those in addition to the fresh ones. It made little difference to the boys with their heads in technology.

Eventually us girls decided to brave the weather (wet cold and windy) to walk the 2 km back to the boat and go through the food and the medical kit. We now know better what meds we have on board and what food we have for the new crew joining. A team discussion on the meds followed, once the boys had returned, almost without their clothing.....they had their coats and boots locked in as they had moved over to the coffee shop to work, and meanwhile the library had closed. Luckily the lady had not gone home.....lunch was lentil soup at 5 pm when the boys returned to the boat!

To make up for the boring day we adjoined to the basecamp explorer hotel for tea and beer and a game of quirkle, resoundingly won by Lizzie despite Peter getting a double quirkle! This restored humour and a good dinner of mac cheese on board followed with route planning for a hike up trollsteinen the following day.


Wednesday was, by contrast to Tuesday, an outstandingly good day. The sun shone and our hike was varied with steep scree sections, steep snow and more stretches of snow plodding, and a delightful ridge to finish off and summit Trollsteinen. (850m) It was a delightful outing with excellent hummus sandwiches again en route. We descended back to Longyearbyen via the supermarket for a couple of forgotten items, and tidied the boat up in readiness for the new crew, Mary and Kirsty, due to arrive at 21:00. Peter did the team washing and drying so that we wouldn’t be too smelly a boat. It was good to welcome new crew aboard and share dinner together, despite the disappointment of no alcohol (something about domestic flights) we celebrated with chocolate instead, which I am probably more addicted to anyway!


Team Bird (B) set the alarm for 0600 and we left around 0645 heading towards Pyramiden (25 nM) under engine. (No wind) It was easy going, and at 0900 Team A (the New Young ones, Peter, Mary and Kirsty) took over and the Birds all went for a snooze. Lunch followed after our arrival at Pyramiden, where we had to move as soon as we went alongside as a bigger boat came along. The quay was very dilapidated and it was only because the wind was so light that we were able to come alongside safely. We then spent a couple of hours strolling round the ghost mining town of Pyramiden where the Swedes started mining and hunting in 1910, to limited mining success but more hunting success. In 1926 the Russians bought it and in 1931 it was taken over by the state owned company who still own it today. It was the only mine that was not destroyed during the Second World War. The German war ship, Tirpitz, did a great deal of damage during the war. Pyramiden housed around 1000 miners and their families between 1948 and 1998. It was a popular option with free food from 1948 and plenty of recreation on offer. There is a hotel there today, run by the same mining company, in the old accommodation block should you wish to stay overnight, with soviet style rooms (no bathrooms) for NOK 800 and upper class rooms for NOK 1000. It’s the closest to Russia I have ever been with a statue of Lenin and lots of Russian manuals in the workshops, as well as Russian road names and signs reminding you of where you are. It’s slightly spooky and clearly the population left in a hurry, with a big mess left behind that had hardly been touched in 20 years. We were very lucky to see Arctic foxes, both one that had moulted and one that was still covered in fluffy fur, at close quarters, as well as a small group of ambivalent Svalbard reindeer who spend all their time eating. Snow buntings followed us around, and there was a good display of flowers, the small Svalbard poppy, scurvy grass (named this as it was an old remedy for scurvy) , saxifrage, alpine meadow grass and arctic hairgrass. A friendly young Russian girl thanked us for moving the boat and charged us NOK 300 for the self guided tour, she’s spending 8 months here with little outside contact. We saw some locals catching and ringing kittiwakes who were screeching and nesting in one of the old apartment blocks.

After our tour of Pyramiden we motored on towards the end of Billetforden to look at the mighty Nordenskiold glacier. On the way we were lucky enough to see a pod of beluga whales blowing and swimming all around us which was very exciting. The glacier had some small bits of ice at its base. We then motored a couple of hours to Skansbukta.

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