Monday, October 1, 2018
Overcast and windy in the morning with clearing skies in the afternoon/evening, 14º F
This past weekend was filled with trips into Longyearbyen from Coal Miner’s Cabins. Mary Ellen, Patricia, and I met the artist in residence at Galleri Svalbard - a painter from Seattle named Elizabeth Bourne. She was painting using pigment containing coal from the old mine. She had been the artist-in-residence for September, so she was getting ready to leave and head home.
We also met an artist friend of Patricia’s - a jeweler named Marina. She lives and has her studio in a tiny house near the water. She invited us in to sit around the table where she makes her work. She offered us coffee or tea as we chatted amongst her various tools, raw materials, pieces of incomplete silver jewelry, paperwork, and scattered miniature zip-locks that held shining pieces of silver rings, earrings and pendants. We chatted for a little while, then walked down to the water to look. Mountains encircled us all the way around. The fjord is massive, so the horizon is lined with what looks like small snow-crusted peaks into the distance. Here, the distance is deceiving.
We walked back across town to Coal Miner’s for a rest, then dinner at Huset in the bistro. (Huset is the northern-most Michelin-star restaurant.)
The next morning Mary Ellen, Patricia, Isaac, and I had breakfast together at Coal Miner’s, and we were eager to meet the rest of our comrades who would be on the ship with us in just s few hours. We decided to walk down into town again to pick up a couple of things - stamps, postcards, maps. It was colder and windy - maybe 14º F or so. So out of excitement and necessity we walked at a faster pace.
There are only three Norwegian Air flights that fly into Svalbard each week directly from Oslo. A few of us that were already staying in Longyearbyen had been on the Thursday afternoon flight. The very next commercial Norwegian flight arrives on Sunday afternoons. That flight held most of the other people we would spend the next several weeks with - including the captain and some of Antigua’s crew.
At 4pm, everyone met at Coal Miner’s for introductions and the first set of instructions from our guides, then we gathered again for dinner at 7pm. I was impressed by every person I met that night, but had no idea what was to come in the next couple of weeks. Back in my room by 10pm, I packed and got ready to board the boat the next day. I stayed up until midnight to see if we could see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis), but no luck - it was too cloudy.
The next day, we all ate breakfast at Coal Miner’s. More introductions. Last minute errands to town. And, back to Coal Miner’s to board the bus that shuttled down to the ship at 1:30pm. We spilled out of the bus at the pier in Longyearbyen, and our first glimpse of Tall Ship Antigua was impressive. Four masts, a blue hull, a proper wheel house, and a mast of square sails. Our home for the next fifteen days.
On Antigua, we settled into our cabins and came back up to the lounge for some coffee and tea - and to await more instructions from the captain. The crew and our four guides introduced themselves to us. Sarah, the head guide, gave us additional instructions about how to behave on the ship and how the daily excursions work. The captain, Mario, talked about other protocols and emergency procedures. So, we listened to this new way of operating and then set sail some time later.
We pulled out of port with the engines sometime before 6:00pm, and once there was some wind, we set a couple of the sails - the mainsail, the main staysail, and the fore staysail. The sunset was exquisite - one of the best I’ve ever seen. The horizon glowing a warm yellowish-peach with a gradient leading upwards of green through every shade of blue. And a towering slash across the sky with pink, salmon, and lavender clouds. Because of the size of the fjord, despite the surrounding mountains we could see the sky almost all of the way to the horizon.
At 7:00pm, we came in for dinner, and a couple of people were having trouble with seasickness. I thought I was okay until I sat down to eat.
This activity is made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) through a grant from The McKnight Foundation.