Skip to navigation Skip to content
< back


Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

29th June, 2013


The 122 nautical mile passage from Ny Alesund overnight saw a myriad of weather condition from fog to overcast and finally an opportunity to see a midnight sun.

Saga Sapphire cut through the calm water of the Adventifjorden as we approached Longyearbyen, with a couple of expedition ships anchored just a few cables (tenths of a nautical mile) from the berth.

With only the one berth currently available in Longyearbyen we were lucky to be able to book it given our last minute changes due to our extended stay in Molde. This had actually played a significant part of the reshuffled plan as there were no other days when the berth was free, with a cruise ship in Spitsbergen’s capital every day. Ironically the day we were supposed to be in Longyearbyen originally, was very windy to the point where I doubt we would have been able to dock given that there are no tugs available in the area.


Longyearbyen, named after the Arctic Coal Company’s American industrialist, John Munro Longyear, who established the town in 1906, is the administrative settlement for Svalbard. With a population of just over two thousand it doesn’t seem natural to describe it as a city, even though up until 1926 it was actually called Longyear City.  Nearly a tenth of Longyearbyen’s population are children and after Norwegian nationals the nation that is most populous is surprisingly Thai, with over a hundred choosing to live in the Arctic settlement according to the pilot.

The multinational community, no longer a company town, is also home to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, effectively a genebank to act as insurance against a large scale or global crisis.

The settlements previous identity as a coal mining town is still in evidence with cabled coal buckets still stretching out along the shoreline and into town. No longer in use they serve as a monument with the black stain of the buckets cargo marking the foot of the old pylons to ensure that nobody could doubt what they had been used for. There is however still a small coal mine in operation on the outskirts of town mining around 70000 tonnes per year, of which over one third is used to power Longyearbyen’s power station. 

At lunchtime it was time to leave Svalbard, so after carefully manoeuvring between the jetty and expedition ships Saga Sapphire headed out of Adventifjorden and into Isafjorden’s main body of water before heading back across the Norwegian Sea towards Bergen.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.