Well; a lot has happened since yesterday, as I will now tell you. Immediately after I finished writing yesterday’s blog we had target practice with one of the shotguns. We used a piece of driftwood we’d picked up as the target and David showed us the two types of round we’d be using. There was a very large bore pellet round that is for hurting and killing bears. The second type of round was one that just made a loud noise, its purpose is to scare the bear away. We all had a go and I think most of us hit the log, I know I did.
A bit later on we found an iceberg! We sailed around that for about half an hour and we all took many many pictures. Then we found another iceberg; this one had birds all over it. We also saw some puffins around the bergs. The icebergs were really odd shapes. The first one looked like a dolphin and the second looked like Sid the sloth’s head. If you listened carefully to the ice bergs you could here them cracking. It was really disconcerting being so close to them. I have found more and more often that I need to remind myself that this is actually really far north.
Later on in the day, at about six o’clock, we arrived at the port where we would be staying the night. It is called Ny-Alesund, it is the most northerly settlement in the world. It is really really barren but really really beautiful. It mainly consists of research stations. Oddly enough the Chinese station has two statues of lions outside the door. In Ny-Alesund it’s illegal to lock your front door because if there is a polar bear in the middle of the street, anyone there will want to get indoors as soon as possible. It’s also illegal not to carry a gun outside of the settlement. As far as history goes, Ny-Alesund was a gold mine and a zeppelin port. Amundsen started his trip to the north pole in a zeppelin from there. Ny-Alesund also has the world’s most northerly pub and post office, it has forty permanent residents and two hundred and fifty in the summer, it usually gets thirty thousand tourists per year. In the gift shop we decided to buy a polar bear for the front of the boat.
Magnus and I spent a good couple of hours walking around taking in all the fascinating sights. We saw a woman riding a bicycle down from the radio telescope, except that her bike was being pulled by huskies! I got some pictures of the husky pen and they are so cute! Later on we came across another man being pulled by huskies and as he rode by the husky gave Magnus a ride-by sniff!
A bit later we decided to have a game of Irish snap. Barbara and I had to teach Constance, David and Ellie the rules. It took a while to get going, Constance particularly had trouble with the rules. After not too long we were all enjoying it but in the end we had to go to bed before we finished the game.
This morning I wrote and posted seven postcards in the world’s most northerly postbox. They were for my parents and my siblings. The post office is also a gift shop so I also bought some playing cards, another bear and some communal chocolates. Magnus has since then adopted the larger of the two bears and I also got a book on ice bergs.
Later on we sailed to one of the glaciers at the end of the fjord. There are a lot of ice bergs up there and we managed to make a bit of a hash of Barbara standing on one! Much much later on we got to the glacier itself which is huge! We spent a long time traversing the ice bergs and taking pictures of the glacier. A couple of times huge pieces of ice fell off the glacier (while I am writing the engine just stopped and doesn’t want to restart) and created a lot of noise. The glacier was eleven hundred metres away so the noise came over a second later than the ice falling off. As we left we saw a seal lying on an ice berg. It was really cute and we all got a lot of pictures.
So. The engine has stopped, Magnus is trying to fix it and nothing much else is happening. This is the end and I will write again tomorrow when hopefully we’ll have seen a polar bear. Bye. (The engine just restarted.)
PS from Ben’s Mum – Ben’s Dad had his operation to plate and pin the broken bone today. It went well and he is fine, if a bit sleepy. Here is an X-ray of the result: