W1610 – Mint Glaciers

In my previous post W1610 – Second Nature I described my visit to the largest settlement in Svalbard, Longyearbyen. The sadness at leaving Longyearbyen all too soon was tempered by the thought that we had a long evening of scenic cruising ahead. We were due to sail up dramatic fjords to get close to more glaciers, before sailing past an interesting settlement.

Just under two hours after leaving Longyearbyen, we started sailing up the Tempelfjorden fjord. The high mountains either side provided the most dramatic scenery as they plummet to the waters edge, with patterns of eroded gullies and rock falls, as well as the horizontal bands of the sedimentary rock:

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As we sailed up the fjord, drift ice began sailing past us in strange shapes, the blue colouring a big hint that they were recently calved from the glaciers up ahead. Is it my overworked imagination, or does the second one look a bit like a human body lying on the water?

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As we reached the head of the fjord two converging glaciers came into view. Looking towards the end of the fjord, on the left was Tunabreen which came down to the waters edge; and on the right was Von Postbreen which we were told has retreated back from the waters edge in recent years. Although by now the sun was mostly hidden by cloud, the striking blue colour could clearly be seen in the cracks and fissures of Tunabreen:

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After a while a ship’s tender was launched, which sailed across the fjord to allow the crew on board to scoop up some of the glacier ice from the water. This was brought back to the ship, and served up to passengers in their drinks from the various bars on board. For me the presence of the tender allowed me to get a better sense of scale – both for the edge of the glacier and especially for the mountain beside it – in the second picture the tiny dot at the bottom is the tender!

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Just as when we viewed the Svartisen glacier in mainland Norway (see W1610 – Stunning Scenic Cruising), the ship performed several slow 360 degree turns so that everyone on board had a good view of the glaciers. This was still continuing as I sat in the restaurant to eat my evening meal, the spectacular scenery providing an amazing backdrop for my meal. After I had finished my meal decided not to bother seeing the human show in the theatre, and instead went back up on deck to watch the wonderful natural show from there. As we sailed back down Tempelfjorden I photographed some of the birds flying alongside the ship:

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By then the temperature had fallen considerably, and knowing it would be a while before we reached the next fjord and glacier, I retreated to my cabin to thaw out. Unfortunately I fell asleep, and only awoke when we had sailed all the way up Billefjorden fjord to the Nordenskiöldbreen glacier. I quickly put my coat back on and rushed back to the top deck to see the sights and take more photographs. I was amused that just ahead of me, and also rushing, was one of the ship’s dancers dressed in an evening dress with no coat – she must have been frozen. As is the way of young people today, she quickly took a ‘selfie’ in front of the glacier, before rushing off inside once more – no question of taking in what she is seeing and the surrounding fjord and mountains!

I however did linger, and took many photographs, including one showing the ship’s clock to show how late into the evening we were still on deck viewing the scenery, thanks to the 24 hour daylight:

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Having missed sailing up Billefjorden I remained on deck to watch as the ship sailed back down past more impressive mountain scenery:

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We then sailed past the settlement and coal mining community of Pyramiden. This was founded by Sweden in 1910, and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927. It’s named after the pyramid shaped mountain next to the settlement. It once had over 1000 inhabitants, but when the coal ran out in 1998 it became a ghost town. Since 2007 a small number of inhabitants are trying to make Pyramiden into a tourist location, with a couple of small hotels and a museum. It is owned by the same Russian state-owned mining company as another settlement on Svalbard called Barentsburg – this would be our second port of call in Svalbard, and the subject of my next post.

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