Monday, July 11th 2016

I booked a boat trip. The plan for it was to head up Isfjorden to the Von Post glacier, with supposedly good chances to see whales, seals, walruses and maybe even polar bears on the way. But when I got to the offices of the people running the trip, they said the plan had changed - the wind coming down Isfjorden was much too strong, apparently, so we did a short trip downwind instead of a long trip upwind.

This was not too disappointing, because downwind was Colesbukta, one of Svalbard's abandoned settlements. All was calm there, eerie and quiet, and we spend a little while looking around the crumbling buildings. My phone buzzed while I was there, a message welcoming me to Russia. The signal must have come from Barentsburg, 12 miles away and Russia's only remaining settlement here.

On the way back, we saw a pod of beluga whales. They didn't approach our boat too closely but they were still magical, bright white in the grey sea, like ghost whales.

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