Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the archipelago of Svalbard with a population of about 2,060 people and about as many snowmobiles. Most of the inhabitants are Norwegians and some are Russians. Located in the Advent Fjord at the entrance of the Advent Valley, this community has an infrastructure fit for a much larger city. Within the islands, there are four inhabited settlements and some scientific stations. Barentsburg, a Russian coal mining settlement, has approximately 850 inhabitants. Sveagruva, the functional Norwegian mine has around 100 inhabitants and Ny Ålesund, a scientific settlement has between 30 and 150 inhabitants, depending on the season. All settlements are found on the west coast, the part of Spitsbergen with the mildest climate due to the warm Gulf Current. Longyearbyen is located at 78°13′N 15°33′E. The Governor of Svalbard resides there. Due to its location far north of the polar circle, it is polar night from mid-October to mid-February and polar day from mid-April to mid-August. Longyearbyen has an arctic tundra climate. History and present day facilities: The settlement was founded in 1906 by John Munroe Longyear, main owner of the Arctic Coal Company of Boston. "Byen" is Norwegian for "the city". It was destroyed by the Germans in 1943 and rebuilt after World War II, with the old foundations still visible in some places. Until the early 1990's the coal mining industry was the major employer in Longyearbyen. The daily life circled only around the mining business. Today, the community offers a wide range of activities and facilities. There is a bank, post office, hospital, public library, cafes/restaurants, tourist information, a swimming hall, a climbing wall, a big sports hall, a grocery store, three pubs, three hotels, one church, several tourists shops, there are various forms of lodging, from hostels to modern full-service hotels, a cinema (Sundays) and one night club. During summer, most of the people you meet here will be tourists or young people working to accommodate the visitors. A very friendly and international atmosphere reigns. And, of course, Longyearbyen has its own international airport.
Each day will be planned to take advantage of local ice and weather conditions. Distances are relatively short in the Archipelago and as there are no ocean crossings, the seas are normally calm. Svalbard is one of the few places on the planet that offers such a wealth and diversity of natural and cultural history sites. During these nine days we will visit ice covered seas, fjords with breathtaking mountain scenery and glaciers flowing into the sea around us. We will spend time steaming through the ice in search of polar bears hunting seals. Ivory gulls will be a highlight for the birders, while we keep a constant lookout for walrus hauled out on ice floes or on sandy beaches. We will visit, ice permitting, spectacular bird cliffs filled with thousands of murres (guillemots), as well as kittiwakes and glaucous gulls. A little auk colony will also be on our agenda. Our shore stops will be highlighted with tiny tundra flowers . We will have the opportunity to observe and discuss some of their adaptations to what we consider a harsh environment. At one or more of our stops, we hope to see Svalbard’s unique subspecies of reindeer. They are much smaller than their southern relatives, but still carry impressive antlers. We also have the possibility of Arctic foxes. This is also a land of history: from whaling to reaching for the pole, to trapping, coal mining and war. We will visit some of these historic sites. We may cruise in Zodiacs along the ice edge viewing seals or walrus, in fjords with glaciers spilling down to the sea or in front of spectacular seabird cliffs. We will have opportunities to walk on shore, observe and photograph the Arctic flora and fauna. As we are in the land of the polar bear, your expedition staff will carry rifles and flare guns on shore for your protection. Krossfjord, Konigsfjord, Monaco Glacier, Hinlopen Strait, Northeast Land, Edgeoya, Hornsund and Bellsund are just a few of the places that we may visit. By not having a set itinerary, we take on an expedition spirit and are free to take advantage of the best that Svalbard has to offer. The evening of our last full day of adventure will find the expedition ship anchored off Longyearbyen.
On departure day, we will offer transfers to Longyearbyen Airport for all passengers with flights scheduled on that day. We are pleased to offer an early morning disembarkation and transfer to the airport for those passengers with flights departing Longyearbyen around 0400-0500 (dependent on airline schedules). For those passengers disembarking at our regular time of 0800, you will be transferred to either the airport or the Radisson Blu Polar hotel, depending on the time of your flight. Those transferred to the hotel will have an opportunity to explore the town center on their own, and then be transferred to the airport later in the day as per flight schedules. Transfer times will be confirmed, and communicated onboard prior to departure. Luggage storage at the Raddison Blu Polar hotel will be available until time of departure.