Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 32 Ny Alesund

 Today we sailed through the majestic Magdalena fjord.  We had a champagne breakfast in our suite while we watched the fjord, the glacier and the pieces of ice floating in the water.  Many of these pieces of ice were blue in colour because of the oxygen molecules trapped inside.  They are called growlers because when they break up they emit a growling sound.  The captain manoeuvred the boat around in all directions so that passengers on both sides of the ship could get all possible views.  This afternoon we went to Ny Alesund which is only 100 km from the north pole.  Ny Alesund is an arctic research station at approximately 800 North.  The temperature at Ny Alesund on this summer day was 50C.  It was quite strange to see countries such as China, India and Korea all represented doing scientific arctic environmental monitoring and research here.  Norway, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, The Netherlands Italy and France are also part of this international arctic scientific group.
Ny Alesund began as a coal mining town and remained so until 1963.  It is the most northerly settlement in the world.  It is on the island of Spitzbergen which is the largest island in the Svalbard group.  Because Ny Alesund is a scientific research station we had to keep to the defined (unmade) roads.  At one section we were dive bombed by birds protecting their eggs, which were just laid in the rubble at the sides of the roads.  There are no trees here.  The birds were really aggressive.  There were signs telling us not to proceed along certain roads  because of the risk of encountering polar bears.  Evidently, they sometimes come looking for seal meat, which is used to feed the dogs at the research station.  Tonight, we listened to Kathleen Carr from Scotland.  She sang songs from Broadway musicals and played the flute and the piccolo.

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