zondag 20 juli 2014

Hanging out at the harbour

Arctic reindeer next to my guesthouse
My research has had ups and downs the last days. The down site is that some of the actors that I would like to interview are on holiday, others are very busy because of the high tourism season, the arrival and departure cruise schedule is quite flexible and the ships do not always moor on the shore, but anchor further in sea and are only approachable by zodiac (rubber boat). Last but not least, they are very busy because they have to change crew and passengers in one day, because Longyearbyen is the end and start destination of expedition cruises. The positive thing about these struggles is that it makes me very creative and open-minded when it comes to data collection. In the beginning I was a bit hesitant, because you do not know how everything works. Now I just try different ways and strategies to get track of expedition cruise ships and expedition leaders. Basically I spend a lot of time hanging out at the harbour to check when expedition ships arrive in order to be able to get track of the expedition leaders. Luckily for me it pays off. Pole Position, the logistics company is very helpful, as they have a better idea when the ships will actually arrive and they are in radio contact with them. I managed to interview two expedition leaders. Jan Belgers, from Pole2Pole Travelguiding, hired by the Dutch tour operator Oceanwide Expeditions for the MS Ortelius and Alex Cowan, on board of the MS Expedition from the Canadian G Adventures, which I interviewed during his lunch break. His colleagues told me he was having lunch in a restaurant in town, so I went to the restaurant and caught him for an interview.
Collecting business cards from expedition leaders by zodiac
From expedition leaders of two other ships (Polar Pioneer from Aurora Expeditions and Sea Spirit from Quark Expeditions) I collected business cards for a follow-up skype interview, when they are less busy. Even collecting business cards from expedition leaders is challenging as I had to go by zodiac to get to the anchored ship. Definitely an adventure! Although I do not yet want to share my research results, I can tell you the most striking finding so far. Expedition leaders do not have to have a specific training or degree to become an expedition leader. If they can prove they have sufficient experience, they can be hired. They will get more knowledge and experience on the many expeditions they will guide. Another way to get more knowledge on cruise tourism in general is by attending the guided sightseeing tours tourists take in Longyearbyen. Arctic and Antarctic Operations Sch├╝tz and Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions were so kind to take me with them on their tours to the city centre, Svalbard museum, a husky farm, the radars of the Eiscat Scientific Association and a hike to Plateau mountain. Although these tours were organized for tourists from big overseas cruise ships, which is not my research focus, I thought it would still be relevant, as expedition cruise tourists do similar things when they visit Longyearbyen. In the end joining these trips turned out to be even more successful for my research than I expected them to be. I did not only get submerged in the culture and history of Svalbard and cruise tourism behaviour, I managed also to get useful contacts and interview appointments. On Svalbard many people change jobs often or have several jobs at the same time. Two of the tour guides also work as nature guides on expedition cruise ships. With one of them I made an appointment for an interview, as I saw him in the swimming pool. So even my free time is productive in terms of making appointments for interviews.
Do not go beyond this sign without a riffle!
Before I finalize my blog, there are still some interesting facts I learned during my stay that I cannot wait to share with you. You are not allowed to be born, die or be burried at Svalbard. Longyearbyen has a hospital which is only used for emergencies. Giving birth is not considered an emergency. Pregnant women are send by airplane to Tromso four weaks before the expected due date and are only allowed to come back when the baby is born. The prohibition to die here is determined by some strange findings in the past. A few bodies were burried here, but due to the permafrost, they rose fairly near to the surface. If you die on Svalbard, the body will be send to Tromso and cremated. Only ashes can be scattered around here. Another interesting finding is that if you enter a public building in Longyearbyen like the library, museum, tourist office,... you have to take off your shoes. This dates back from the old times when mining was a commercial activity in Longyearbyen. To keep out the black dirt, people took off their shoes when they went inside. Apparently they still do. And to end, you are not allowed to leave town without a gun, to protect yourself against potential danger from polar bears.

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