All in Norway

Spitsbergen and at sea 12/08/14

For the first time since we left Longyearbyen, awoke to heavy fog and the ship moving very slowly as it threaded its way among ice floes. We had been scheduled to stay aboard this morning while the ship reached the southern edge of the Arctic pack ice, which is starting push down at the end of summer. We were to have worked our way to the most northerly point in the voyage, slightly north of 80 degrees, while we tried to enter the strait between Spitsbergen and the large island to its east. The expedition staff during this time had gone out in a couple of zodiacs to scout for sightings of polar bear or anything else that they could find that would be interesting for us to see. The belief was that this was highly unlikely since the fog had formed a cloud cover about 10 metres above sea level and we sailed in a world in which visibility was limited to a clear circle at sea level but was solid fog as soon as you climbed to the higher decks in the ship....

Spitsbergen and at sea 11/08/14

Le Boreal sailed all night and when we awoke this morning we were greeted by grey skies and a sullen sea. During breakfast the ship anchored and at 10 we dressed very warmly and loaded the zodiacs for an hour and a half trip to a long section of very high cliff faces rising out of the sea and the nesting grounds for thousands and thousands of guillemots, a chicken-sized black and white bird. As we approached the cliffs the air was filled with large numbers of birds swooping from the cliffs and filling the air around us as they dove into the sea to fish,  taking their catch back to their chicks poised on ledges. The smell was overpowering even in the windy open ocean and we were warned not to luck up, particularly with open mouths....

Ny Alesund and at sea 09/08/14

Breakfast in the buffet restaurant, lots of smoked salmon on offer so smoked salmon, plain yogurt and fresh fruit will be how I start my days on this trip; can’t imagine anything better. As long as there is smoked salmon on offer I will never starve and in fact I will be able to get it at all three meals so intend to put the theory to the test.

Ship docked this morning in Ny Alesund, the most northerly settlement on Spitsbergen at 78,50 N latitude. One small, unpaved road leading from the dock which forms the main street of the town and which, much like Longyearbyen, is mainly composed of research scientists and fisher people....

Oslo and Longyearbyen, Norway 08/08/14

Up at 5:45 and down to breakfast at 6:30. We are leaving at 7:30 for the airport and because of the limitations on luggage, both checked and carry-on I have been a little concerned that I’d be paying overweight charges, given that we are allowed one carry-on weighing 8 kilos and I have three filled with cameras and electronics weighing 15 kilos. However in the scramble to load 180 of us on two planes, that seemed a trivial matter compared with checking us all in and loading us so, all was fine.

2.5 hour flight to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago where we pick up the ship at 78 degrees longditude....

Oslo, Norway 07/08/14

Today, Thursday, is our last day in Oslo as we are up early tomorrow morning to catch our charter to Svalbard. We took the subway to the Holmenkolen ski jump which is built on the top of a mountain on the outskirts of Oslo and which was built for the 1994 Olympics in Oslo. It was torn down and replaced in 2010 by the current structure, the most modern in the world. It’s amazing to take a subway, with no changes of lines, from downtown Oslo, up to the top of a mountain to a ski jump; Vancouver can go from the sea to the ski slopes in 30 minutes but they can’t do it on the subway!....

Oslo, Norway 06/08/14

We have spent the last couple of days walking around Oslo. First time here so no yardstick to measure it by, but I have been to Stockholm a number of times and I expected it to be much like that. We were very surprised at how much smaller the city was, more like a provincial market town than the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world.

The city is very accessible, very good public transit and most things reachable by walking. We are right in the city centre staying at the Oslo Grand Hotel, a very large old building with an air of faded elegance but comfortable enough, right next to the Parliament House and a 5 minute walk from the waterfront, the Royal Palace and many shops and restaurants.... Continue Reading