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Tourist guide

22-28 June 2010

For the first time in 20 years, I join a tourist boat for a complete cruise. It is a special trip for newspaper readers and focussing on changing climate. For me it is the first time to travel north of Kongsfjorden. Our boat is the Plancius of Ocean Wide Expeditions. On board 85 tourists and special lecturers: Louwrens Hacquebord, geographer and archeologist. He is my team leader at the Arctic Centre in Groningen and is a specialist on whaling and the arctic.
Jelte Rozema, botanist with projects in the Arctic and Antarctic. Heleen de Coninck, member of the negotiation team for COP-meetings on climate change. Salomon Kroonenberg, geologist and climate change critic. Judges the current changes as irrelvant in earth history. Maarten Loonen (that is me) ecologist and station leader of the Netherlands Arctic Station. Rinie van Meurs and Jan Belgers are the most experienced Dutch expedition leaders in Spitsbergen. Daan Vreugdenhil has done a lot of guiding since he worked for me as a student.
When the passengers arrive on board, there is a safety drill and the next day we walk on the tundra close to a surging and a retreating glacier.
Smeerenburg is a special place for people from the Netherlands. It has been a 17th century whaling settlement. Louwrens tells stories about the few remains of blubber ovens, houses and graves. On our landing beach we meet the first whalrus.


The expedition leader knows a good spot to observe polar bears. A whale carcass was stranded last year. In the neighbourhood, we discover 9 polar bears of which there were 3 cups. The picture of the bears and the backbone of the whale is impressive.
In the north east of Spitsbergen, we visit Sorgfjorden, were Dutch whalers tried to escape from French pirate warships. There is a lot of snow and we walk on snow shoes. I make a picture of myself. The present national poem Ramsey Nasr is among the guests and makes notes as we go. While on land, a crew member is evacuated from the ship by helicopter. He has a nasty infection on his hand which needs hospitalisation.


The last day, we visit Kongsfjorden. From 17th century whaling, we move to 20th century industry and recent science. When we land in Ny-Ålesund at noon, many people are still sleeping after the mid summer party the evening earlier. I host the flag at the Netherlands Arctic Station and tell my guests about our work.
And this ends an interesting trip with many lectures and impressive landings.



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