NWS client Peter Haworth tells his tale of an Arctic wildlife safari
Arrive in Longyearbyen. Off the plane, get our bags and step into a postcard. Awesome scenery all around, stunning. Check into the hotel and off to the Svalbar for “lunch”. It’s buzzing. Get a table, order and then a game of Cards Against Humanity. Hilarity reigns. Lunch arrives and we discover that she is Irish. Struggling with how to properly pronounce the name of this town... after listening to some Norwegians I found out I’ve been using too many vowel sounds. It’s more like “How long yr bin working here”. Problem solved.
Wander around the town, admire the huskies, look at the parking lot full of dead snowmobiles (snow has left town for the summer), not to mention a place to park your dog team. Fantastic. Bed, but hold on, these curtains don’t work – 24/7 daylight – get used to it.
Breakfast and then explore the town some more. Off to the Svalbard Museum which is really good – great to get an understanding of the history of this northernmost city in the world. Also at the museum, taxidermy versions of what we hope to see live in the wild. Excitement builds…
Back at the hotel ready for pickup and a very distinguished-looking gentleman checks our names off the list. A bus arrives and we climb aboard – this is a big bus – I’m sure you could fit the whole population of Longyearbyen in here. Pick up the rest of the group from another hotel and off to the wharf to meet up with our vessel for the expedition – the MS Malmö. She was initially built as a research vessel in the 1950s for the Swedish Maritime Administration. The ship was rebuilt in 2013 for the purpose of cruises and has now been ice-strengthened in order for the ship to explore difficult-to-reach areas. With space to accommodate just 12 expedition passengers and two experienced expedition leaders on board, it feels more as if you are on board your own private yacht than an Arctic cruise ship! OK, so I stole that last bit from the brochure.
Taken to our cabins then to the saloon for safety briefings. Up onto deck and the postcard is now a moving panorama from a BBC documentary. I pinch myself and ask one of my fellow Kiwis if this is a dream. It is magic – you have no idea how splendid this world can be.