You may have spotted that Ny Ålesund is my favourite place. It is very beautiful and feels very remote. It feels like a settlement, somewhere that you could really live, but it is quiet – no crowds and shops. In the summer there are about 150 people but there are only around 40 people who live here all through the year.
Ny Ålesund was the site of several attempts to fly to the North Pole by airship, and the airship mast that was used in 1926 and 1928 is still standing. Amundsen’s airship, Norge, constructed by an Italian called Umberto Nobile, flew from Ny Ålesund in 1926, crossed the North Pole and reached Teller in Alaska. Because of the subsequent argument as to whether the credit should go to Norway or Italy, Nobile flew again from Ny Ålesund, in an airship called Italia, in 1928. Nobile reached the North Pole and turned round to return to Ny Ålesund, but crash landed onto the ice. Part of the airship drifted away with five of the crew, and nine of the crew were left behind on the ice. Nobile had a broken leg and another crew member was injured. There was a massive search and rescue operation launched involving more than 1,400 people, with more than 20 aircraft and 14 ships. Amundsen joined the operation in his flying boat Latham but crash landed and Amundsen died, one of 17 men to die in the rescue expeditions.
Nobile was rescued by the Swedish pilot Ejnar Lundborg and the icebreaker Krassin, rescued the remaining crew from the ice.
This is the town of Ny Alesund. Apologies for the street lamp – you are not allowed to leave the roads/tracks because the ground is protected as a site for breeding birds and also for the research stations, so it’s difficult to move around to get clear shots. Ny Alesund is at 78 deg 55 min but everything in the Post Office gift shop is marked with 79 deg. As the guide book says, continental drift means that Svalbard is gradually moving northwards, so they are well prepared for a million or so years’ time when they actually get to 79 deg.
Ny Ålesund is a small town of research stations, situated at 78deg 55min. Nick Cox very kindly took me round the British station. This is the view from Ny Ålesund across the bay. Nick said that when he first started working there thrity years ago, they used to sled across the fjord in the winter. Now it doesn’t ever freeze across. They also never had rain in Ny Ålesund thrity years ago, only snow, but now it rains sometimes. This is an old disused shack. Because of the cold, wood does not rot so old wooden things are in much better condition than you would expect. We had to be careful of icebergs when we were sailing through this bay.
Home now and back at school. Now that we can upload our photos, Mum and I have decided to post a photo each day so that you can see the places that I was writing about. This one is from our first day sailing out of Longyearbyen across Isfjord and was taken in the small fjord we anchored in for the night, next to Tryghamma but I don’t know the name of this fjord.
We have arrived in Longyearbyen for the last time today. We stayed in Pyramiden for the night and in the morning went for a walk about. Before hand we tried to fly the drone, and found the root of the problem. At some point the iOS on the iPad was updated, then the drone app needed updating and then, today, we found that the firmware on the drone required updating. So no drone.
Anyway, we walked into town and found the following: a playground, empty of course. It had half buried tyres, a partially collapsed wooden platform, some empty sandpits and a pair of swings. After we had a mess around there we went on to what appeared to be the main street. It had an angry bust of Lenin in front of what seemed to be the town governmental place. To the left of it was a derelict indoor swimming pool and through one windows we saw some dried up plants they had been growing, and a coat still on the hooks. It really seems like they just got up and left one day.
We went beyond the town and saw an arctic fox. It came really close, went to the toilet and ran off. We then walked down a river and to the town’s graveyard. It was surprisingly small and I think that only the important people got to be buried there. We went back to the boat and had lunch. We had planned to leave tomorrow but the weather was not on our side so we left after lunch with an estimated travel time of five hours, ha! We motored right into a headwind. On the entire way back we had an average speed of three knots. It took us from three in the afternoon to nine at night.
On the way into Pyramiden we went to a really old phone box, which was a stool with a phone next to it. Next to this was a mannequin, or so it seemed. It hadn’t been there the day before and as we came closer we saw it move and it turned out to be a Russian man named Sasha who was dressed like a Russian from Pyramiden when it was still operational. Even his gun was in character. We had met him the previous day and he had been very nice so we gave him a slice of Mim’s and Rob’s cake. On the way back to Longyearbyen Mum made a tea loaf as her bake off item. This was so good that it was gone before she could take a picture of it.
I leave tomorrow. I find this really, really weird. I’ve been on this boat for a month and a half, normal life will be so odd. And I’ll be going back school, it seem so strange. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my self. I’ll try to write about my first few days in normality. Bye
Yesterday we returned to Longyearbyen and tried to waste our time, we failed, miserably. We arrived and tied up, Mum then took the Mim and myself to the museum that is paired with Longyearbyen university. It was very impressive. The exhibition was on the whale hunters that were first sent to Spitzbergen in the eighteen hundreds. It had a lot of very good reconstructions including a stretch of mine shaft that you could crawl through. They had a lot of stuffed animals as well, this was rather gruesome but very effective. After that we went to a shop to see if there was anything that Mimi wanted to buy. There wasn’t. In the evening we returned to the restaurant Kroa and I had a pizza, which was far to big for me to eat. I took it back to the boat and had it for breakfast and lunch today.
This morning I awoke to the cry of pancakes. I had a lovely breakfast consisting of four pancakes and a slice of pizza. We left at eleven when we had re-stocked on water and coca-cola. We headed north toward Pyramiden and raised all three of our sails. As we went north Mum decided that I needed a publicity photo. We managed to spend a full hour photographing before she decided that there was one that didn’t make me look to silly. Mimi also climbed up to the top of the mast and took some amazing photos.
During the trip we began the great Northabout bake off. The team who baked today was Mimi and Rob. They made a rich chocolate cake with a thick chocolate fudge sauce with a raspberry coulis. It is amazing but you will throw up if you have more than one piece.
When we reached Pyramiden we tied up at a pier and I was astounded. Pyramiden is an abandoned Russian mining settlement. It was abandoned in 1998 I think, but when the residents were evacuated they were given no time to get ready. On the pier is a wooden pillar which protrudes three feet above the floor of the pier. It is surrounded by five old chairs and has what look like two very old dice resting on it. It is really eerie. We went for a walk around and I love it. There is no one there, just old empty buildings which your not allowed to go in. Apparently there is still toilet paper on the rolls. We plan to spend the entire day here tomorrow and fly the drone, finally.
The day after tomorrow I go back to England. I find that really hard to believe. I will write once more and then I’m back in England. I hope to be walking to the north pole in April and going round the north pole in Northabout. I don’t know what’ll happen for those but I hope to do another blog. Goodbye.
Yesterday, after I wrote to you, we anchored half way back to Longyearbyen. After we anchored we had dinner and finally decided to watch a film. This was something we had intended to do since Bristol. We decided to watch something that my mother had brought up with her. It was a present from a man named Alasdair who is a friend of Magnus’s and the man that we bought our equipment off. He had gifted us the Sagas of Noggin the Nog. We sat down and saw the entire first story, which consisted of six fifteen minute episodes. It was hilarious. Magnus and I were very suspicious of the green bird Grackulas who was surprisingly much maligned by this suspicion.
In the morning I didn’t get up. I woke and got up at half past twelve. Mum seemed to be a little put out by this but we have understood that, as I am now a teenager, if nobody wakes me up then I won’t get up. This is somewhat irritating for all concerned. After I got up I found out that we were moving south again and the waves had got up quite a lot and the Mim was feeling rough. Rob and I were feeling fine but had seasickness tablets for contingency.
Half way through the day the wind and the waves got up some more and we turned into a bay and anchored to weather it. We had lunch and played a few games of cards. After that the wind got down again and we continued on our way. At half eight we anchored again in the same bay that we did nearly two weeks ago on the first time up to Ny-Alesund. It feels so long ago.
When we anchored we had dinner. Ellie had given us a brilliant spaghetti bolognese. I had the last coca cola that I had left. Then, I picked up the glass that contained my coke, drank from it, and nearly choked. I was greeted by a horrible spikey sour taste which had only one explanation – David had poured wine into my coke! This was an evil act that I can never forgive him for. blecch.
We have now finished that dinner are now about to embark on a journey to apple crumble and custard. There is even talk of Noggin the Nog. We have also organised a night watch to make sure the anchor hasn’t slipped. I’m on the second watch which is from twelve fifteen to one thirty. I think it will be really weird not being on the boat again, it’ll take some getting used to. Anyway, we’ll be back in Longyearbyen tomorrow and I’ll try to write again. Bye.
We have once again returned to Ny-Alesund. Yesterday, after our excursion to the shore, we motored on down to a beautiful bay which has the graveyard of one hundred and thirty dead whale hunters. It also includes a hut for the warden of the site and two whale boiling pits. Allow me to explain: in the eighteen hundreds there was a large demand for whale oil. The only use I am aware of is that it was used widely in oil lamps and to make soap and margarine. This demand was so much that the companies were prepared to handle the cost of shipping the equipment, coal, food and men to Svalbard to retrieve this oil. The men would catch a whale, boil it and then send the oil back to wherever they came from. Although it has a grim past, the bay was extremely beautiful and oddly, not very cold. We got some very nice pictures and a seal gave us and acrobatics display.
When we got back to the boat we motored on down to the fjord that Ny-Alesund is in. We were trying to decide between going and staying the night by a glacier or going back to Ny-Alesund itself. We decided to return to Alesund. When we got back the first thing everyone did was have a shower, which was lovely. We also finished off and apple crumble that Ellie had made, which was also lovely. Then David went to see Nick, who runs the British post here, who said I should be able to have a look round the British survey base. [insert the most exited noise you can make]
Last night, where we were anchored, there was a small ice flow which over the night would pass alongside the boat. Spoiler alert, it did. In the middle of the night I heard the ice clunk against the hull. This was sooner than I’d anticipated so I got up to have a look. Funnily enough Mum did the same thing at exactly the same time. We had a look outside and surely enough the ice flow had surrounded Northabout, to me it looked as if Northabout might be slightly closed to the shore than when I’d gone to bed. I checked on the GPS and reassuringly the boat was no closer nor farther from the shore. Although it did worry me at the time.
Magnus has just come in to the internet hut at Ny-Alesund and requested that I showed him a website that sells realistic lightsabers. It’s called ultrasabers for all those who like star wars. On that topic, a while ago i mentioned a booklet called, Revelations From God on the Judgement of Britain. As it turns out, on of my mothers friends runs the Cambridge Science Library, the one in England not in the US, and the author of this booklet sent them one. So if no one else did she knew exactly what I was talking about and why it was so funny. Heh, heh, heh.
On the way down to Ny-Alesund we had a whole lot of nothing happen. My shift was satisfyingly boring and my rest time involved sleeping. We did have a nice lunch of tomato soup and bread and some of us have felt seasick. Other than that nothing much has happened. Sorry about that. I’ll write again tomorrow when I’ll hopefully have been inside the survey building. So, I bid thee farewell.
I woke up this morning and saw land outside. This was strange for two reasons, first, when I went to bed we’d been significantly north of Svalbard and second, as far as I knew Ellie had promised not to feed us any hallucinogens. As it turned out during the night we had decided to turn around because, I, Rob, Mimi and Ellie had been feeling sick and our speed had slowed to two knots. We had been trying to reach the pack ice but it would have taken four days to reach the ice and three days back at that speed. I woke up just as we were anchoring at the site at which Solomon André and Wellman attempted to fly to the north pole buy balloon. Weldon failed, André died. According to historical fad this is the one form of polar exploration that requires no effort.
We decided to go ashore and look around. We took both of the guns that we have but not the bear spray or the foghorn. We had to lower the zodiac into the sea, this turned out to not be nearly as difficult as I’d anticipated. When we got ashore Magnus and David took the guns and we skirted the ruins. The site that had been a Balloon hanger for the two teams. They had a set of huge ceramic pots. They had contained sulphuric acid to create the hydrogen for the balloons. André’s team was found 33 years after they left dead on a west coast Svalbard island. We walked away from the site and over a small climb and on the other side there was a very large sausage roll sitting on a rock in the bay. Otherwise known as a seal. The sausage/seal was completely unbothered by the florescent figures slowly approaching it. We managed to get within twelve meters of the sausage/seal and all it did was bounce on the rock and look around. Then we saw the other seven sausages/seals. They are SO unbothered by humans. We then walked up to a nearby plateau and took a couple of group photos. Up on the plateau we found a set of polar bear paw prints.
I had noticed on the way up to the plateau that, this was one of the worlds most remote beaches, and there is litter covering the shore. This is not good. On the way back to the boat I decided to pick up and carry as much plastic as I could back to the boat. I wish we had more space so that we could take more. Somewhere like this should not have this problem. When we were ashore we had the best weather we’ve had all trip. We had intermittent blizzards. It really made you realise the trouble that people in the early 20th century had surviving here.
When we got back to the boat we got the anchor up and motored off, apparently Magnus spotted a whale on the trip but I was conveniently asleep for that. We’re now anchored in a bay called, Trinityhammer. Tomorrow we plan to go ashore and then return to Ny-Ålesund. I will try to write again tomorrow but for now thank you and good whatevertimeofdayitiswhereyouarewhoeveryouare.