dinsdag 15 juli 2014

Welcome to Longyearbyen

Fram expedition ship
Yesterday night I, Linde Van Bets, PhD researcher of the Environmental Policy Group of Wageningen University, arrived in Longyearbyen, where I will stay for two weeks to investigate how expedition cruise tourism adapts to ecosystem changes. Expedition cruise tourism visits areas that are normally inaccessible for the public, like the unique landschape of Spitsbergen. Currently Spitsbergen is becoming a popular cruise tourism destination. Expedition vessels are not that big, they can host up to 120 passengers. On my way I had to change flights in Oslo, but the flight schedule allowed me to spend my afternoon in Oslo. No better way to prepare for my stay in Spitsbergen than to visit the polar expedition Fram museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum in the beautiful area Bygdøy. The expedition ship Fram was especially built in Norway for polar expeditions and was used between 1893 and 1912 to explore both poles, guided by expedition leaders Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen.

Spitsbergen from the airplane
After this stop, it was time to continue my journey to Spitsbergen. At the airport in Oslo it became already clear to me I was travelling to an outdoor area, which required good equipment. Different brands were competing when I looked around and saw the variety of hiking boots, backpacks, rain coats, rain pants and ski suits. Around midnight the airplane approached Longyearbyen. During summer Spitsbergen is enjoying 24 hour daylight, so at midnight we could still enjoy the beautiful scenery of Spitsbergen. After my first night I had to wake up in time. At 10 o clock I had my first interview, with Ronny Brunvoll, director of Svalbard Tourism. I am staying in Guesthouse 102 in Nybyen, it is a 2 km walk to Longyearbyen. My research focuses on how expedition cruise tourism adapts to ecosystem changes. I conduct semi-structured interviews with actors like authorities, expedition
Longyearbyen from the airplane
leaders, researchers, port authorities,... In addition key actors have to fill in a questionnaire in which they rank which factors contribute the most to access to accurate and relevant knowledge and information, conflict resolution mechanisms, compliance with rules and regulations, sufficient infrastucture and being prepared for change. This is based on the theoretical framework of my PhD research. After my interview with Ronny Brunvoll, it was time to explore the neighbourhood. I went to the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Spitsbergen travel, the supermarket and the library. In the afternoon I was lucky, Kjetil Bråtel, the harbour master of the port of Longyearbyen had time for an interview. Good that I could meet with him today, as he will be in Finland for the next three weeks to pick up a brand new boat for the port of Longyearbyen. I learned that the schedules of expedition cruise ships are quite flexible. So I have to check the updated schedule, because the next days I will do some observations when cruise ships arrive and depart in the harbour. Today turned out to be very productive: two interviews and one blog post for my first day in Longyearbyen, not bad at all.

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