Last week I spent 48 hours in Longyearbyen, my second visit to Svalbard (read about the first one here). We had a work meeting there, with everyone from my institute and everyone who works at one of “our” (mostly military) airports in Northern Norway (Andenes, Bardufoss, Bodø and Longyearbyen). But because most of us work shifts, we can’t all go at the same time and they actually have to organise the same trip twice! I was in the first group, the second group is there at the moment. The main goal is getting to know each other, so it was quite a fun trip 🙂
The flight time from Tromsø is only 1.5 hours, and we went straight from the airport to Svalsat, the world’s largest satellite receiving station. Quite an incredible place! We first listened to a presentation about the station, and then we went outside to take some photos, and we also went inside one of the domes. They all have satellite dishes inside, and while inside, we saw it slowly turn round to follow a passing satellite.
Afterwards, we were taken to our hotel and we had some time to ourselves. Shopping time 😉 Longyearbyen is FULL of outdoor shops, which more choice than you’d ever get in Tromsø, I think everybody came back with at least one new item of clothing 😉 In the evening we had dinner at Kroa, a restaurant across the street from our hotel, in a very nice room.
The next day we had a meeting so we spent a large part of the day inside. As soon as we had the chance, Ine-Therese and I went outside with our cameras to capture the beautiful light. The light was really incredible the whole time we were there, always changing and always beautiful. I could have taken photos all day long!
These photos were taken on our walk from the meeting place to UNIS, the university at Svalbard. I never got enough of the view of the mountains on the other side of the fjord, so pretty!
In the afternoon we went on a bus excursion to “Gruve 7” or Mine 7. Longyearbyen used to be a coal mining town, and you can see the remainders everywhere. They weren’t very original with names, so the mines are just numbered. Mine nr 7 is the only one in Longyearbyen that’s still in use. We couldn’t actually visit the mine, but we had nice views from the mountain above it.
In the evening the light of the setting sun painted the mountains a beautiful orange/red colour… We had a great dinner at Huset, which is quite a fancy restaurant. It felt unreal to sit in such a comfortable place, enjoying amazing food and great wines, and look out the window at the harsh beauty of the Arctic!
On Friday morning there was the option of visiting the museum, but a few of us decided to skip that and hike to one of the glaciers instead. Ine-Therese lived in Longyearbyen for 5 years, so she knew a nice walk – and most importantly: she was able to borrow a rifle and knows how to use it. As soon as you leave Longyearbyen, you should carry one to protect you from polar bears. It’s very rare to see one, and you can only shoot them as a last resort, but safety first!
A panorama looking back at the Longyearbyen Valley.
Ine-Therese is showing the way 🙂 It was a beautiful walk, with some light snow every now and then, but great views all around.
Ine-Therese left Svalbard 11 years ago, and in her memory it was just a short walk to the glacier. Much has changed in those 11 years though, the glacier had retreated quite a lot and we had to climb quite high up to reach the glacier. We were keen to get there though, so we continued. And we were rewarded with this incredible blue ice, which really looked as if something was lighting it from the inside. Aurora-in-ice we called it 🙂 I’d never seen anything like it before!
It took us 2 hours to reach this point, and it was time to turn back so we wouldn’t miss our bus to the airport.
Here are some photos I took on the walk back through Longyearbyen, the first one shows Huset where we had the nice dinner the night before. The other one shows Ine-Therese “hunting” for Svalbard grouse. They were quite tame, she could come very close and they didn’t seem to mind.
Before getting on our flight back to Tromsø, we visited the office of our colleague who works at the airport there. His office is in the control tower, just one floor down from the actual control room. Great views from there!
It was a great trip, and many of us wished we could stay for a couple of days longer. Now I am dreaming of another trip there 🙂