Coal Mining, Fine Dining
After the serenity of anchorage in Trygghamna, Friday night saw a return to a more industrial landscape only ten miles away across the mouth of the Isfjord. This time, to the Russian mining settlement of Barentsburg. Unlike abandoned Pyramiden, Barentsburg is still a working mine; albeit currently inactive since a fatality in the levels in July. Despite a reported resident population of 4-500, we didn't see many of them out and about and it has all the hallmarks of a Pyramiden in waiting. Desolation pervades with decaying infrastructure left simply to crumble. Nevertheless, there are signs of some re-generation too. A new clinic building is approaching completion, the community hall and Kulturhus is being reclad in thermal tiles in anticipation of more winters to come and the fenced off Russian consulate building not unlike many the world over.
After an uncomfortable, choppy night alongside at the crumbling pierhead we explored ashore but didn't stay long. It is a diconsolate place and an hour ashore was enough. Perhaps we missed a gem of more optimistic prospects - we suspected not.
The cold, wet mist that has pervaded Fiona and Ilana's short stay with us persisted throughout our return to Longyearbyen. Alongside once again, we set to work preparing Atlantis and ourselves for our respective journies home; Fiona and Ilana by air to UK and Brussels and Atlantis' crew for the long passage south. Our rifle has been handed back, fuel and water tanks filled and sufficient fresh food embarked for the first few days.
Time for a final treat however; and what a treat it was. Huset Restaurant is regarded as one of Scandinavia's finest - guests allegedly travel from across Norway to dine there. Whilst its location in Longyearbyen might appear incongruous its menu is most certainly not. After enjoying a fabulous evening of exquisite haute cuisine and carefully matched fine wines to celebrate the time the girls have spent with us, we can see why.
There was no time for cameras at Huset - we were too distracted enjoying the meal. Later, after a final photo to record our time together in Svalbard, Fiona and Ilana departed at 3:30 AM on Tuesday for the airport. Onboard Atlantis, there didn't seem to be much point in hanging around so we slipped our moorings too. As the girls' aircraft accelerated to take off, we waved them farewell from the fjord alongside the runway and set course for the sea. The weather for the majority of their stay may have been mainly grey and gloomy but their presence alone was sunshine enough for us.