maandag 28 juli 2014

Participatory observations on the expedition cruise ship MV Ortelius

From the second I entered my Twin Porthole cabin at the expedition cruise ship Ortelius, I regretted that I could only stay for one day. At the same time I felt excited and very welcome. 80 passengers and 40 crew members, a very luxury ratio as you ask me.
Linde on board of the MV Ortelius
We started off our journey with a safety briefing and an exercise with life jackets. Afterwards we left the port of Longyearbyen to sail in to the fjords. I spend some time on the bridge with the captain and I met someone that was working in the cruise industry, but was currently enjoying a trip with his family. It is very easy to meet people on this type of crew. People are quite interested in nature and wildlife and eager to hear about other passengers' travelling adventures and wildlife encounters. Afterwards there was a briefing on food and drinks by the hotel manager, a toast with champagne and warm snacks on behalf of the captain and an introduction to the crew. The crew came from all over the world (Great Britain, Schotland, Australia, Canada, Spain, Belgium...) and covered also different disciplines like marine biology, polar history...  After dinner I got a bit tired, but tried to stay awake to see some wildlife. The crew told me we would soon enter a good area to spot whales as they had seen blue whales there the day before. It was worth to stay awake. We spotted two blue whales, which we saw pop up four to five times with 6 to 7 minute time lapse in between. Amazing to spot the world's largest species blow-outs, fins and tails. It made my day. 
The 14th of July glacier
The next day we got a briefing on environmental guidelines and a zodiac cruise explanation. We put this in practice by enjoying a zodiac trip to the 14th of July glacier. A stunning view with the mountains covered with snow, the blue glacier and the green tundra next to it. The bird droppings fertilize the cliffs which become very green. We saw Arctic reindeer, pink-footed geese and black-legged kittiwake. After lunch we continued our trip to Ny-Alesund, the research community at 79°N. Passengers explored the village, which only opens its shop and post office when tourists come in town. Afterwards they got a historical tour to the Nobile mast, as Ny-Alesund is the starting point of many attempts to reach the North Pole by famous explorers like Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile. In the meantime I managed to get an interview with Jim Mayer, the expedition leader of Ortelius. In Ny-Alesund I will spend the next ten days conducting interviews with expedition leaders, researchers from the different research stations, the Norwegian Polar Institute and Kings Bay. In addition I will investigate the tours expedition cruise tourists take through the village. I will tell you all about this in the next blog.


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