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Published: August 20th 2016
As i had another day to fill in before my Polar Bear Special Cruise commences tomorrow on m/v Plancius i decided to fill the day in by taking a tour. The coach swoops around the various hotels picking up passengers, including me at 8:30am for the 9-10 hour cruise.
Once the coach delivered us to the vessel "Polargirl" we were given the usual safety talk by the young female guide (name now forgotten) and everyone rushed on board to get the "best position". How they knew what was best I don't know as there seemed to be beauty all around. It was however overcast and foggy when we commenced but brightened the further we sailed up the Billefjorden and by time we reached our first destination of Pryamiden the sun was shining.
As we pulled into the dock there was a young man that at first I thought it strange that he was in costume and wondered what the heck he was doing there, he was helping tie up our vessel so obviously he was meant to be there. It turned out to be our guide Sasha, originally from St Petersburg but for the last three and a half
years he has been the official guide for the area and one of the 6 permeant staff living on site. He had been studying at university when he saw the advertisement for the position advertised through National Geographic and he applied, getting the job. He suspects he may have been the only candidate. He does get to go back home for three months of the year during the severe Winter months.
The first thing of obvious note as we disembarked at this site was the fact that both Sasha and our guide from the boat were carrying rifles. This was because polar bears have at times wandered onto the site, though not often, they are obviously a risk. We walked the length of the jetty then boarded a bus to take us for a short ride closer to the village, where once we arrived Sasha commenced his story of the area. He was a great story teller, humorous and very knowledgeable.
Although anyone can visit the site, they are prohibited from entering any of the buildings even if they are open. They must be escorted by Shasa, and in our case he would unlock the buildings for us
to have a look into. We were shown the Culture Centre, the Swimming Pool, and the Canteen. Although there dis no hope of the site ever been opened up again as a working mine, they are maintaining some of the buildings, keeping them painted and maintaining it as a tourist venture.
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