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August 5th 2011
Published: August 10th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Ny Alesund
This tiny settlement is home to researchers from around the world. We were instructed to stay on the paths and not to go out of the settlement. Buildings are scattered around, many from the days when coal mining was king here. There is a mining museum that has artifacts from those days. Then here are some larger wooden buildings that house scientists from various countries. There are modern glass and concrete structures that house the permanent researchers from countries such as Norway and Germany. Austria’s building looks like an outhouse. China’s has lions guarding the doorway.
There are very strict environmental laws and the fines are hefty, around $7,500 for littering. They are very serious about preservation here and permission to visit is contingent on the good behavior of the passengers. While in these waters, the ship will switch from a blended fuel to marine diesel and no wastewater will be discharged until we are away from Spitsbergen waters and there will be no smoking on deck. This may seem a bit harsh but nothing degrades here so anything discarded has a very long life, even cigarette buts.
Birdlife consists mainly of arctic terns. They are birds with an attitude and will dive-bomb anything that they perceive as a threat to the nest, including humans. Arctic fox breed here but we were directed to stay away from them. The sky was clear blue and the sun felt so good. The temperature was around 52 degrees and as long as the wind did not act up it was very pleasant.
That was not so this morning when the Norse God of the Arctic, his wife and nine lovely daughters boarded to demand a sacrifice in order to give the ship safe passage through the Arctic Ocean. The sun was shinning but there was a very brisk wind that swirled around the deck. We gathered around the Lido pool, I was bundled up and wrapped in two blankets, while volunteers from the passengers waited to jump into the water. Each had to have their nose painted blue and some had designs on the rest of their face.
Needless to say the ceremony was dragged out as long as possible. We had to greet the god, we had to learn about each of the daughters, the god had to address us, and we had to chant a nonsense prayer. All the while, 38 certifiable passengers were standing around the pool in their bathing suits waiting for the word to go in. Finally, they had to drink water that was tinted arctic blue. At that point they just went ahead and jumped in. They were showered with buckets of ice cubes and the cruise director was thrown into the pool. I didn’t know there were that many lunatics aboard.
I’m glad the wind died down when we went on shore. The Captain received permission to dock at the VERY SMALL DOCK. It’s fascinating how these vessels can be maneuvered.
I find it hard to imagine the life the researchers lead although they do have some diversions. I found the Jacuzzi while wandering and there is a small cinema and recreation room. Everyone who is stationed here is always armed against polar bears. They are a real threat here.
I had expected to be chilled to the bone and had planned a hot bath but I wasn’t as chilled as I was watching the Blue Noses the morning.


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