This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise Kronprins Haakon”.
Day 21 · 11 March 2022
It’s the night before 11 March, the last day of the polar expedition JC3 in the program Arven etter Nansen that I have been allowed to take part the last three weeks.
As often before I stand on the helicopter deck of the icebreaking research vessel Kronprins Haakon. It’s dark but I can see pale mountain schemes on both sides of Isfjorden. Mountains and fjords, that feels almost unreal after two and a half weeks with hardly any land in sight.
The first lights, the first other ships, the first mobile connection for weeks – we are definitely approaching civilisation. The airport is already in sight and soon the illuminated settlement Longyearbyen, the largest inhabited area of Svalbard is visible.
At 1:30 in the night we arrive at the harbour of Longyearbyen and the ship is moored. Time to catch some sleep.
After some hours of sleep the alarm clock wakes me up – time for breakfast. We have to leave our cabins at 8:00, the first farewell. Goodbye cabin 385 at the port side of the ship’s bow. After breakfast I stand again on the helicopter deck to welcome the sun and the blue sky.
Some of us leave the ship to visit town. Is it possible to go there without the threat of polar bears? Apparently, although we are at the coast and polar bears can swim. For two hours I stroll through the town, first with others than alone. Many of the others have lived here for a while – a normal place for people who are involved in polar research.
I head to the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). It’s not only the university that is located there, my employer the Norwegian Polar Institute has offices there as well. Hopefully I may work here for some weeks someday. I want to spend more time in Longyearbyen.
Together with J. who works there we had back to the ship. Here we will meet the taxis to the airport but before that we get lunch – the last meal on board.
Some hours later. Seven of our team sit in the waiting hall of the airport. Others already left with the earlier flight. And then we enter the airplane. It’s surprisingly cold in row 3 near to the open front door and after some minutes I put on my down parka. It may look ridiculous but soon I’m getting warm again. And then the plane starts.
The plane is rapidly gaining altitude and more and more the whole wintry beauty of the island Spitsbergen is revealed. I’m so touched by the view of mountain chains, glaciers and ice covered fjords.
And then we leave Spitsbergen’s southern tip behind and a layer of clouds slide between airplane and sea. A journey far beyond the ordinary comes to its end. Time to say farewell.
I stand on the Arctic sea ice
far in the north. The sun hangs low
over the horizon and there lies
an ice ridge lit by the morning glow.
The silence feels as infinite
as the extent of the frozen sea
and with every subsequent minute
my heart grows with boundless glee.
I stood on the Arctic Ocean
It’s past now and I should say good bye.
But an overwhelming sad emotion
shades my soul. And I cry, and I cry.
Olaf Schneider – 24 March 2022
My heartfelt thanks to all people that made this journey possible.