Monday, July 3, 2023

Norway - Day 1 - Svalbard

 We have arrived at the top of the world!  At 1:30am we touched down in Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway) after two flights to get here.  It was as bright as noon when we landed.  Svalbard is in the Arctic and has the midnight sun from April to August - where the sun doesn't even pretend to set and it never even dims.  It was wild to  see.

It wasn't jaringly cold, since it is summer - in the 40s F when we landed.  The airport is very small, so the bus to our hotel loaded quickly and within about 10 minutes we were getting checked in.  There are not a ton of flights to Svalbard, so our arrival was not unusal to the hotel.

We were up farily early this morning so that we could have breakfast before our first excursion.  We are only in Svalbard for one full day, so we are making the most of it.  (It was an add on for our trip once we watched a show and documentary on the place and knew we had to come and see it).   Our first excusion was a husky sled ride.  Since it is summer, the sleds are on wheels, but we had a fantastic time.  We were picked up at our hotel and taken to the kennels where they keep the sled dogs.  The kids were in heaven getting to pet all the dogs they could.  Our sled was pulled by 16 dogs and we had a nice 2 hour tour seeing the landscape.  Our guide was fantastic.  Arlington even took a turn driving the sled which she loved.

We were back in town by 1pm, and had time to grab lunch and look around the small town before being picked up for our section excursion.  We elected to take a Glacier tour in a Catamaran for our second outing.  It was wonderful to be able to see the glaciers and as a special treat we even got to see two blue whales (the largest animal on earth).  Our guide - who was also a marine biologist - was beyond excited that we got to see that.  He said it is very rare.  Sadly - our tour was not able to go as far out to sea as originally planned due to very high winds (all flights were canceled today) but we enjoyed the tour all the same.  Our guide was very knowledgable and very passionate about the wildlife and land they are trying to protect.  We also go to see two abandoned mining towns that used to be Russian.

It was a good day.  We had a late dinner at the restaurant at our hotel and were exhausted by the time we fell into bed tonight.

The view from the airport at 1:30am

Our hotel and area

Meeting the huskies

The kennels. People don't really keep their dogs in their small houses/apartments, so they are kept at the kennels and watched over by handlers.  Most dogs are working dogs because of the terrain and long winters.

Our dogs getting ready to go.  We all got to help get them harnessed and ready.  

Views while we waited to go

Our guide driving the dogs

The scenery was amazing.  They don't get much weather in the summer - mostly just wind.  Not really any rain.  IT is very dry and dusty.  Very very little grass or plants noticed.

Arlington taking a turn driving
End of our ride

The town.  It is so small = just a row of stores and restaurant.  We went into just about every one and realized that they really do have everything they would need on this strip.  Because this is it - on the whole continent

Coal is their major export here - you can see it everywhere.  They have a statue of a coal minor at the beginning of the town

We thought this sign was funny.  I am sure it is especially true in the winter when they use their dogs and sleds to get around
In the afternoon we saw some amazing glaciers and landscape on our boat tour.  Sadly the blue whales never surfaced well enough for me to get a good photo

It was quite cold on the boat as you can imagine.  We carted our winter gear for this trip

This is one of the abandoned mining towns.  Our guide told us that 1000 people use to live here and this is all that is left.  He told us that polar bears usually frequent the buildings now, but our day was pretty warm, so we didn't see any.

This is the Global Seed Vault.  It houses all the seeds available if there would ever be a global national disaster

In almost every public and private building, you are asked to remove your shoes.  Even in restaurants.  It stems from the days of heavy coal mining and all the dirt that can be dragged in.  This place is still quite dusty and dirty (and of course slushy in the winter) so the tradition stands.  It was quite weird to be in a nice restaurant with our shoes off.

Our guide told us that this wine glass shape of snow on this mountain is how they determine when summer starts.  He says when the stem of the wine glass breaks loose from the top, it is officially the first day of summer.  It happened while we were there.

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