Editor’s note: This post is from one of the five students from Amalie Skram high school in Bergen, Norway, who were chosen to join the REGIMES Team in Longyearbyen, Svalbard August 7-10, 2017.
Svalbard Day 1, by Liam McCafferty, Amalie Skram VGS
«The landing might be rougher than you’re used to», the pilot warns us, explaining that Longyearbyen’s runway isn’t exactly the smoothest. We glide in above a layer of grey clouds rolling across the landscape, allowing us no more than glimpses of the ragged, black peaks spreading across the desolate, treeless expanse below.
Waking up at 5 is never easy. I swiftly avoided this issue the only way I knew how, by skipping sleep entirely. A slight exaggeration? Maybe, however sleep did not come easy, too put it mildly. There was simply too much stuff to think about; “Did I remember everything? Have I prepared? Have I packed!?!” So 2am it is, bedtime before my alarm clock, a mere 3 hours later rip me from my not so peaceful slumber. But I digress, nothing a large amount of coffee can’t fix.
It of course went from bad to worse, when with a few short buzzes, my phone demands my undivided attention, and with good reason. It seems our flight has been delayed an incredible 50 minutes, leaving us approximately -30 minutes for our connecting flight from Oslo Gardermoen to Longyearbyen International Airport. Which to most other places in the world wouldn’t be too big of an issue, however, this is Monday’s sole flight to the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard.
No worries though. As if by magic, whatever delay there was is no more. Speeding through fast-track we board out plane no more than five minutes late, and following a short 50-minute flight we land in Oslo, with time to spare! The next leg of the journey was, by far the longest. In total, a four-hour journey, with a short stop in Tromsø for the day’s second passport control. Before the last two-and-a-half hours to Longyearbyen.
Landing in what must be one of the smallest airports in the world, going through the entrance hall which leads us nicely to the single baggage carousel. Pouring through the airports doors we’re greeted by a sign pointing us to major cities all over the world.
Crowding practically every person in the airport onto the shuttlebus outside, before heading in to the centre of Longyearbyen. Our first of many ventures to come on this trip, was the “Longyearbyen in a nutshell”, a guided tour of the town with a local expert. Our first stop on the tour was a flatland just outside of town, surrounded by peaks in every direction. The sheer scale of the mountains, and the fact that there wasn’t a single house, or even tree on any hillside was a testament to Svalbard’s wilderness, largely untouched by human hands.
Next came the clear highlight of the trip; the sled dog park. With what has to be some of the most playful and adorable dogs anywhere on earth. Outside of the main kennel area – where dogs with such amazing names as “Dropbox, and Django” were chained – were 5 dogs available to the petting-craving-public.
Leaving the kennel of cute, we headed on to what I was prepared to call the highlight of the trip. It wasn’t…
The Svalbard Seed vault has fascinated me for the longest time, however getting there and not only being told, we can’t go near the vault as work is still being done to repair it, following the water leakage of last year, but seeing it from a distance and realising the outside isn’t a massive, monolith of space-future-tech, but instead a rather neutral looking (nice though), concrete slab leading into the mountain. Don’t get me wrong though, it was still an amazing thing to have seen.
Heading back into town now for a meal at the hotel, which all in all was a pretty good end to an amazing first day on Svalbard and, no doubt about it, far from the last brilliant experience to come…