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Pole to Pole

Day 8: Longyearbyen to Tromsų

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe are to continue our journey south on the supply ship Norsel, which leaves today for Tromsų in Norway, refuelling, or 'bunkering' as they call it, a number of fishing boats on the way. They have limited accommodation on board and it will be a slow trip (estimates vary from five to seven days for the 600-mile journey), but beggars can't be choosers and there are no other ships operating out of Longyearbyen this early in the summer.

We bid farewell to all those who guided us across Spitsbergen, and I promise Geir that I will let the world know that most of our snowmobiles were made by Yamaha for whom he is the dealer, and not Ski-Doo. He in turn reveals that he's going to Tromsų anyway, but flying there in a couple of hours as any normal person would. I try to point out the delights of not being normal.

The Norsel is the only vessel at the dockside. Adventfiorden, on which Longyearbyen is situated, only became free of ice a week ago, and the coal ships will not start arriving for another month. She looks sturdy, if a little bruised, a slash of pillar-box red against the grey buildings of the port, and the flowing white cloaks of the mountains across the fiord. She is not a big ship, only 550 tons, and our cabins are the size of cupboards, but there is an appealingly warm and secure atmosphere below decks. Earlier in the day I had talked to a journalist from the Svalbard newspaper who raised her eyebrows when she heard I was crossing to Tromsų by ship.

'They call that sea the Devil's Dancefloor.'
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 8
  • Country/sea: Norway
  • Place: Longyearbyen
  • Book page no: 24

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