Playing safe in Spitsbergen

Today I was picked up first thing to take a hike and fossil hunt close to Lonyearbyen near one of the glaciers. The area we walked to was just outside the settlement but Polar Bear had been sighted up there in the past so there’s a minor risk. Maria our guide for the morning, as well as being fully trained and licensed to carry a rifle also brought along one of the dogs, a three year old half Greenlander and half something else from theses parts called Ram. You can imagine with a dogs sensitive smell and hearing they can raise the alarm for Polar Bear way before a human. Whilst we looked for fossils, and we were not disappointed, Ram obediently guarded us and did a fine job of too. No bears today but some wonderful views back down the Bally towards Longyearbyen and beyond. If you have 3 to 4 hours even if you are picking up an expedition that day it’s an excellent idea to take a hike and get out of the village even if you are not too much in to fossil hunting. Fully recommended and interesting not to mention dead safe.

Strangely on the walk down we passed a group of 8 adventurers going up the track away from the settlement lead by a chap from Chc. Republic and obviously staying out overnight with full pack of tents and sleeping bags etc. Our guide shared her extreme concern with us that the guide carried not gun at all. Seems crazy to even take minor risks in this region especially when you are responsible for other lives, not just your own. Ok it’s rare to see bears around hear as there’s not obvious food source but why would you take this risk and disregard what locals always agree on.

There are various choices of lodging in Longyearbyen from Hostel type accommodation similar to Spitsbergen Guest House and 102 to The Spitsbergen Hotel and Radisson Blu which are probably the highest grade in Spitsbergen. If you are looking for clean but basic digs the guest House and 102 will suit you fine but if you seek high end The Radisson and Spitsbergen Hotel are the best choice. However if you have stayed in other Radisson Hotels worldwide don’t expect the same of Radisson Blu Spitsbergen as it falls a lot short when compared so bring your expectations down a few notches. Even the superior rooms are a little basic of what you may expect from Radisson but it’s very central and short walking to the museum, restaurants and bars in the village plus the staff are helpful and friendly. The Spitsbergen Hotel by comparison is a 15 minute walk with slight incline at the end but better quality in a more classic in style with excellent fine dining restaurant called Funken Restaurant. I,d recommend this hotel over the Radisson to discerning travelers even though The Radisson is more expensive. An alternative is The Trappers Hotel is an interesting themed hotel with only 16 bedrooms and well located in the middle of town. It’s not for every one especially those who don’t like the thought of sitting on animal skins and seeing paintings of trapping scenes plastered around. But I loved the cosy ambiance theme of a trappers log cabin inside the hotel the fact they have cleverly used local washed up beach wood to build the inside of the rooms and hotel common areas.

Embarked MS Expedition at 4pm and set sail at 5pm. We have just seen Beluga from a distance of the starboard side and apparently there were 10’s of them when the vessel came in to dock the early hours and they are still there. Hope this is just the start of a wildlife feast for the next 8 days.