Arctic Documentary Project: Svalbard, Norway Post #1: Montana to Fidembukta Harbor
July 20, 2011
Our trip from Montana was uneventful – though flying anymore I find literally painful. When Tanya and I travel overseas we always plan to arrive at least a day early, ideally two or even three. Acclimating to a new time zone slowly can make all the difference on the first part of any adventure. In today’s world we are all very busy, and for most it’s exceptionally difficult to take even one more day away from work, but we suggest to all our guests to try and come early. The first day of your adventure is invariably more enjoyable if you can spare the time.
We broke our trip up by staying one night in Oslo. Our hotel was a Best Western not far from where we landed and it was typically European with very small rooms but an equally comfortable bed. The night passed quickly, never really getting dark. Around 10:00am we caught the well-organized, pleasant and clean bus to the airport.
Keeping a camera close has always been the answer to great pictures. It’s never been easer to be prepared for that special image that presents itself. I carry a small body with a minimum of 28mm lens to record special moments that I find while traveling. There are so many great options to choose from today such as Nikon advanced Coolpix 5700. The photo of this unique looking, early European design car caught my eye while waiting for the bus to the airport. I took out my small, go anywhere camera and shot these pictures.
Longyearbyen, Norway is without question the most beautiful, quaint, well-kept town in all the arctic, or at least all that I have visited. Typically one would see poorly maintained, washboard, dirt roads, and little if any pavement, junk piled high outside every villager’s house, caribou skins hanging from the decks, moose meat drying on wooden racks, antlers hanging from roof peaks, beat-up trucks, old tires, disintegrating snow machines, tools scattered near and far and a dog on a chain barking! That’s most often the villages I’ve seen. But Longyearbyen is different.
On our ride from the airport to town we traveled comfortably on a well-maintained, paved road with not one pothole that I recall. It was a civilized journey of several miles. Longyearbyen sits in a little valley. At the head of the valley is what remains of a glacier. The streets of this town are mostly paved including the path that runs the 4-5 block length of this community. Colorful houses line the settlement edges, but businesses make up the core. Along each side of the hamlets central path you will find retail shops. There is one for groceries and household items, 2-3 that sell extreme and not-so-extreme outdoor adventure gear. You will see Patagonia and Coke, pizza and Ludafisk, bicycles and snowmobiles, sundresses and survival suits.
One shop I called the Dead Animal store you could buy the most beautiful seal skin boots I have ever seen. If desired you could also purchase a polar bear rug, a musk ox hide with head, horns, a skinned wolf face snarling with fangs, a full-bodied arctic fox mount, several other unidentified animal furs and magnets with a polar bear photo. All of these items presented in surroundings that resembled the look and feel of a log cabin with the exception of highly polished but natural wood floors and a checkout register that looked more like a computer. Longyearbyen is maybe just a bit over-civilized for me.
July 21, 2011 ~ Fidembukta Harbor, Oscar ll 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; it’s 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 it’s 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 2:00pm. Westerly we sailed through Isfjorden and at it’s mouth we changed course to north. It was about a 5 hour trip from start to finish, our destination being Fidembukta Harbor. It is hear at 5:00am I’m taking time for my journal
The adventure north to experience the wonderful archipelago of what is called Spitsbergen/Svalbard is made possible by a very capable ship and crew. Our boat stretches 67 feet from stem to stern, and it is 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, moderate build, a bushy beard with signs of gray. Laura is petite lady with long curly hair from Italian descent. 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. Join us on our 2012 Svalbard Photography Expedition • July 22 – August 5, 2012