March 18, 2015
Wednesday: Arrived at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the permanent settlement that is farthest north on the earth. 78 degrees, 15 minutes north latitude. It’s a nice town, very orderly with colorful houses. Flying over northern Norway we saw this white landscape of snow and ice that made amazing abstract images. I’ll post one shot here, but I’ll have to look through them and maybe post more. The sun was out for a short time as we flew north, but was cloudy as we approached Longyearbyen.
(Click on images to enlarge)
The tour group has us fully occupied, we could sign up for optional excursions, I signed up for 3 extra aurora viewing nights and a dog sled ride. Included was a ‘sightseeing’ tour of Longyearbyen, which I went on immediately after arriving at the hotel. Among other things, we saw the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which has stored most of the world’s major collection of seeds. They chose Svalbard since they could dig the vault into the permafrost, and it’s at a high enough altitude to protect from rising sea levels. If the power fails, the permafrost will keep the vault cold. We could only see the outside entrance, which looks like an alien ship stuck in the side of this mountain.
We saw the ‘polar bear sign’ which the guide said was the only traffic sign in the world with a black background, to show off the polar bear. Beyond this sign you have to be armed to protect against the bears. They have me scheduled for the dog sled ride at 9am, so I’ll continue tomorrow.