Oslo – Longyearbyen

By Ben // Sunday 23 Sep // 23:57:50 // 1 Comment

If the first day of our voyage is at all reprensentative of the trip to come-and I have every reason to believe that it will be-then I’m going to have a lot to learn about expressing awe. It’s a simple exercise to take something finite and describe it in great detail; it’s terribly more difficult to forge an account of something as massive and moving as this place. But we must try.

Flying from Oslo, our crew was collectively jolted from the weary fatigue of travel (this correspondent tallied up six airports in the 36 hours prior). The sense of shared bewilderment of 20 relative strangers upon landing in Longyearben was nearly as stirring as the scene into which we touched down.

A beautiful day blessed our arrival-not common for this place, according to David-with a mat of clouds keeping temperatures comfortable, if still below freezing. A jaunt through town yielded the group many a precious souvenir score-mugs were purchased, a couple of savvy travelers posted cards, and a run on canvas shopping bags (branded with the ubitquitous Longyearbyen polar bear, who we fortunately never met in the flesh) impressively left the local supermarket sold out.

Longyearbyen is an interesting place, seemingly having grown about a coal mine and power plant that lights and heats the town’s 2000 or so residents, 25-percent of who turn over every year. (Surely there’s an interesting paradox to be explored about an old coal town that is so clearly being tugged by climate change, but none of us had the wherewithal to dive into it.) As a hub for research expeditions and modest arctic tourism, it’s a place of transience, and our scattershot international crew warranted not a second glance while traipsing about town in our matching hunter’s orange caps. (Team Zissou Farewell!)

Returning to the Norderlicht for departure, spirits high as the journey begins in earnest. Gliding through a thankfully placid sea, as the sun sets beyond a mountainous island direct off the bow. Cameras working overtime on deck, so that the post-dinner cabin scene is one of competing wires and adapters and whirring laptops as memory cards are purged into hard drives.

The anchor drops as the Norderlicht sits in a fjord, mountains surround rising through the lolling twilight.

Apologies if I’m not so lucid this evening (or for the rest of the trip for that matter). Typically I feel it’s a cop out to say that “words cannot describe,” but for once it feels an apt excuse. And the conversations I’ve had this evening make clear that, for more folks than myself, this place-this experience-is still a bit beyond expression.

Tags: Ben Jervey

1 Comment

  1. janet schroeder Monday 24 Sep, 2007 // 21:42:49

    And…if your first post is at all representative of your posts to come (packed with detailed imagery that brings it closer to all of us so far away) then we all have a lot to look forward to…

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