7/21/2011 3:19:05 PM
Svalbard Adventure: Longyearbyen to Oscar Island
The sunny skies of Longyearbyen have given way to the arctic gray so common in this part of the world. Off to the east the rising topography of Oscar Island breaks the line between water and sky. In the valley lies a glacier; its base implies the palm of a hand, and from that palm stretch icy fingers, semi-white streaks that run from the mountain's granite-colored base to its sooty, snowy summit. There are no flawless whites in summer in the Arctic. Today it's a world of monotones, gray to darker gray.
Winds are relatively calm and our anchorage serene. We left the little, arctic village of Longyearbyen yesterday afternoon as the clock neared 2:00 p.m. Westerly we sailed through Isfjorden. At its mouth we changed course to north. It was about a five-hour trip from start to finish, our destination being Fidembukta Harbor. It's here at 5:00 a.m. that I'm taking time for my journal.
The adventure north to experience the wonderful archipelago of Spitsbergen/Svalbard is made possible by a very capable ship and crew. Our boat stretches 67 feet from stem to stern, and it's a sailing vessel. We motored from town to anchorage last evening, with a jib furled to add some pull. As is so often the case with sailboats in the Arctic, much of our time is spent under power of an engine. Never a powerful engine but one that runs methodical and true.
Our hosts are Captain Mark and his first mate Laura. Captain is a quiet man, with a moderate build and a bushy beard with signs of gray. Laura is a petite lady of Italian descent with long, curly hair. Her English is superb with a beautiful Italian accent; she's warm, smiles easily, and has impressed us all with her first meal of stuffed mushrooms topped with a meatball-like filling. Additional fare included purple cabbage, the wonderful, whole-grained breads that Tanya and I love so much but only comes easily in Europe, cheese, a delightful, honey-colored but full-bodied Norwegian beer, and a box of red wine.
We all ate heartily, shared a coffee after our meal, and spoke about cameras and lenses, polar bears and conservation, journeys to come, destinations past, family and pets, and a little about life. We have another great group and adventure to come.