Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Noorderlicht, Svalbard, Norway

I just got back from a three day snowmobiling trip in northern Norway. We left from a town called Longyearbyen. It is the largest city in the area (population 2,040). We snowmobiled 40 miles out to a ship called the Noorderlicht. The ship was built in 1910 in Germany. Every year, the ship is left in Tempelfjord, 40 miles outside of Longyearbyen, until the ice freezes. The ship is then used as a hotel for tourists.

(note the tiny ship in the background stuck in the ice)

There are no roads connecting most of the attractions on the island, so travel is done by snowmobile or dogsled. There are polar bears on the island, so all guides on these trips carry rifles and are not allowed to drink at all on the trips in case they need to fend off a polar bear. It seems the polar bears are not like the friendly ones on the Coca Cola commercials wearing red scarves. When the tour groups are inside the ship, the snowmobiles are left out overnight. Apparently, the polar bears really enjoy snacking on the leather seats of the snowmobiles. Much to the scooter owners’ disappointment, the polar bears seem to prefer new leather. So in a group of old and new scooters, the polar bears always seem to tear up the newest snowmobile.

The Noorderlicht is also an official post office. The post is periodically picked up by dog sled team. The polar postal dogs are greeted by the resident dogs of the Noorderlicht- Ebony and Ivory. Their doghouse does confirm that they are living together in perfect harmony.

                   (The Polar Dog Mail mailbox)