15-Mar-2004 -- Finally getting to Svalbard! Some time ago my friends Einar, Anne Kathrine and their son Olav moved from Oslo to Longyearbyen to live and work there for a few years. This winter I finally got around to booking tickets to fly up and visit, and hopefully make a trip to the first Confluence point in Svalbard.
Einar works part time as a guide, so he knows the area very well. He studied his maps and told me that it might be feasible to reach three points in the single day we would have available, but that the local weather was very non-predictable at this time of the year.
On saturday I packed all my gear, and watched the Longyearbyen weather reports that told about sleet, wind and zero visibility, but with improvements forecasted for sunday & monday. I left Oslo on sunday morning, flew to Tromsø where everyone had to leave the plane as they filled all the empty seats with extra air freight (in winter Svalbard is icelocked, so supplies must be flown in), and then reboarded for the two hours to Svalbard.
Svalbard was discovered two times, first by the vikings, who according to icelandic books from 1194 called the place Svalbard (lit: "Cool rim or edge"), then by the dutch explorer Willem Barentsz in 1596. He was trying to find a sea passage to China to the north of Russia.
Today there's 1500+ people living in Longyearbyen, the norwegian administrative center (Svalbard is officially a norwegian territory), and nearly 1000 in the russian coal mine town of Barentsburg.
Monday morning started with low cloud cover, temperature about -2C, but no snow or sleet, i.e. fair conditions for a snowmobile trip. We packed a sled with skis, extra gasoline cans, survival gear and all the other stuff you need on a trip outside Longyearbyen. This includes a high-power hunting rifle that Einar carried on his snowmobile just in case we got into trouble with one of the many, many polar bears in the area. After picking up a second (rental) snowmobile for me, we started the trip a little before 0900.
We drove east along Adventdalen, then turned south into Todalen where we followed the river canyon in the bottom of the valley. After about 20 km we got to Frithamn (lit.: "Free Harbour"), the place where norwegian resistance fighters hid out from the germans who occupied Longyearbyen during WWII.
We then went through the pass and down Gangdalen to Sørhytta ("South Cabin"), which is used by the local Red Cross for trips and exercises. From there we left the regular trails and simply followed the GPS for three km, stopping almost exactly on the point.
After the usual photos, we turned around and started west towards our next point, N78E15!