Earlier this year, I booked a trip to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Not sure where that is? Well, it’s way up north. 78 degrees away from the equator. Like, any further and you would need sponsorship and call it an expedition. Most northerly town, most northerly ATM, most northerly just about everything. Fortunately it also has the most northerly airport with regular scheduled flights and I nabbed a pair for about £500. Bargain.
When I booked this trip, I was hoping for a bunch of adventure. Since this place has a law that states you have to carry a gun to shoot polar bears if you leave the town, it seemed like an excellent choice. Like the total over-planner that I am, I filled the schedule with activities that would excite and invigorate me and The Husband. I enjoy researching that kind of thing. One of the tours on offer hit the spot: boat trip to see glaciers and (hopefully) a polar bear or two. Oh hells yes.
On board the MS Langøysund, we got a safety demonstration. We were given instructions on how to put on a dry suit. This going to prove very useful just a couple of hours later. Never again will I hear the words ‘in the event of an emergency’ and laugh again.
Until of course… we hit rocks. I had just come up on deck after dinner to grab some photos of the glaciers when I heard the bone-crunchingly awful sound of metal grinding on rock. The bow rose up, and port side dipped dramatically towards the water. I grabbed the side of the boat while chairs slid across the deck. My eyes met The Husband’s. Given he has a Masters degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, I took my cues from him. He look worried. The boat seemed to mostly right itself, but was going precisely nowhere. The Captain hurried to the deck to peer over the bow. Spying some rocks in the water below us, he muttered ‘shit’ several times and disappeared again to the bridge.
The furry hatted Swiss guide quickly handed out dry suits. Mine was a child’s suit but fit me nicely. The Husband had to swap his for an adult’s version, understandably. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that these were just fancy wrappers for polar bear candy, which is essentially what we were, especially if we ended up in the water.
After the initial worry, we all began to relax (as much as you can in this kind of situation). We were told that we were simply wedged on some rocks and not taking on water, however, meeting up with the furry hatted man at the bar the next night would prove this to be untrue. We also found out the captain got sacked and there was £100K worth of damage to the vessel.
The crew were keen to handover whatever drinks and chocolate they were able to salvage. MS Polar Girl, the only other boat anywhere near us at that time of night (remember, this is after 10pm) motored at speed to us within 45 minutes and deployed their zodiac rather than risk getting close to us for a straight transfer.
And for anyone who wants to point out that The Husband and I have awful luck when travelling (Icelandic rescue, missing bags, lost flights and front teeth), save it. WE KNOW.