Time for a new update. The last days I have been busy with taking interviews and transcribing them. I managed to have meetings with three expedition leaders: Christian Bruttel, nature guide and assistant expedition leader at the MS Quest and MS Stockholm of the Swedish operator Polar Quest, Axel Broman, expedition leader at the MS Quest and also staff and operations manager of Polar Quest and with Karin Strand, the first female expedition leader I spoke on board of the MS Fram from Hurtigruten ASA, the Norwegian expedition tour operator. In addition I talked with Terje Aunevik, the managing director of Pole Position Logistics at the port of Longyearbyen, and with Ilja Leo Lang, the office manager of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO).
|Longyearbyen's busiest cruise day|
It has been interesting to hear different perspectives (field perspective from expedition leaders, port perspective by Pole Position and management perspective by AECO) regarding expedition cruise tourism and how it adapts to ecosystem changes. There are some structural properties of the business that complicate management. Expedition crew swap between ships and companies or work on freelance basis. This makes it sometimes difficult to decide who will pay for investments and training of them like for example for shooting practice, zodiac training, first aid, ... In addition there are no proper certificates that prove the training the expedition leaders have had, both from a theoretical and practical point of view. Sometimes you have to rely on people's word for it. Other experience they will gain by learning-by-doing.
|World's most Northern statue of Lenin in Pyramiden|
Friday was a crazy day as 3 big overseas cruise ships entered the port, as well as an expedition cruise ship. This day the population of Longyearbyen tripled as between 5000-6000 additional tourists spend a day in town. This is the first time that many tourists visited this place at the same day. The town was crowded with shuttle buses, people wandering around, sightseeing tours... Queues for internet access, souvenirs shops, cafes and restaurants and even for the toilet facilities. All resources had to be used to provide an enjoyable day to those tourists. The receptionist at my guesthouse told me she worked three jobs at the same time that day: receptionist at the guesthouse, receptionist at the Svalbard musuem and in between she guided two sightseeing tours by bus through Longyearbyen. Sometimes it is difficult to draw a line between work and pleasure here, especially because I am investigating tourism. All the time I perceive things from a tourism research perspective, but I managed to enjoy some free time. I took a hike to Fuglefjellet, a bird cliff, 10 km outside Longyearbyen and near the shore. It was nice to see what is behind the valley in which Longyearbyen is situated. Another day I took a one day cruise trip to Pyramiden, a previous Russian coal settlement which transformed into a kind of ghost town. All the mining facilities and equipment were left behind like it was still in operation yesterday. The Soviet Union atmosphere is still vibrant here. Afterwards the boat trip took us to the beautiful Nordenskiöld glacier.
It was so impressive, the different shapes, the ice pieces floating around, the truly blue color of the ice... When we left the glacier behind, suddenly the boat turned around. Although it was just a tiny white spot that slightly moved, I can say I have seen a polar bear. Actually we saw much more wildlife during the trip: fin whales, Arctic foxes, puffins, Northern fulmars, Arctic terns, glaucous gull... I am sure I will even see more wildlife in the coming days. Today I will go to Ny-Alesund. Normally I would go by air plane, but Oceanwide Expeditions was so kind to let me join their expedition cruise tour from Longyearbyen to Ny-Alesund. This will be excellent for my research, as I will experience life on the expedition cruise ship Ortelius. So stay tuned for my next update about the actual experience!