Pre-departure information Svalbard
WELCOME TO SVALBARD!
You are about to travel to one of the world’s most scenic places. Svalbard may be a bit cooler holiday destination than most, but it is an archipelago that evokes warm feelings and lots of inspiration. Everyone at PolarQuest is truly passionate about Svalbard – its pristine nature and fascinating wildlife. Once back home, we hope that you will have the same passion for this ice-crowned paradise and become a true ambassador for the Polar Regions.
Everyone working at PolarQuest has been to Svalbard. If you give us a call or send us an email, our enthusiastic travel consultants will answer all your questions regarding your Svalbard trip – clothing, weather, landings or Zodiac cruises – we have all the answers! Hopefully you will find some of the answers in this document as well.
We know that one of the keys to a successful expedition is having knowledgeable and enthusiastic leaders. Many of PolarQuest’s guides have more than ten years’ experience of the Polar Regions and commute between the Arctic and Antarctica every year. A few weeks prior to your voyage, you will receive a short introduction of the guides who will be on your trip.
Don’t forget to follow our blog, Facebook or Instagram and take part of news, images and travel stories. On our website you find several inspirational movies from both Svalbard and other unique destinations.
CURIOSITIES ABOUT LONGYEARBYEN
- There are no street names in Longyearbyen, they only use street numbers.
- Longyearbyen was named after the American John Munroe Longyear, who founded the Arctic Coal Company in 1906. The settlement was first named Longyear City but was later changed to Longyearbyen.
- If visiting Ny-Ålesund, you can send a card from the northernmost post office in the world. But please note that it can take weeks before the card arrives at its recipient.
- Common practice is to leave your shoes at the entrance, this to keep the coal dust out.
- Longyearbyen’s houses are built on stilts, due to the permafrost.
- During four months of the year, from around 25th October, the polar night occurs, and the sun never rises.
- During four months of the year, from around 19th April, the midnight sun reigns supreme and the sun never sets.
Please note: The itinerary on this trip work only as a guideline. Factors such as the weather or the ice situation play an important role in where the ship can venture. The daily schedule is decided by the Captain and the Expedition Leader, who both have great experience of the area we are travelling in. Remember that flexibility is the key to a successful expedition!
Participation on this expedition cruise requires that you are in generally good health and have good mobility. If you have had any major surgery in the past two years or have any medical conditions that are important for the physician on board to be aware of, we kindly ask you to contact PolarQuest so that we can assure that the ship receives all the adequate information. We also ask you to have a written description of your medication with you on board.
If you occasionally are in need of assistance due to reduced hearing, reduced eye sight or poor mobility, please note that you must have someone travelling with you. Our guides must be available to all passengers on board and can unfortunately not provide extra attention to someone in need of extra assistance.
It is very important to have full medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation cover for the period of time you are away.
PASSPORT & VISA
All visitors to Svalbard need a valid passport. Please check with your nearest Norwegian Embassy if you are required to obtain visa for this trip. You also need to check how many months your passport needs to be valid after the date you plan to leave Norway.
- The currency in Svalbard is Norwegian Krone (NOK)
- Credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, AmEx) are accepted on board the ship and in most shops in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund
Lost luggage is beyond our control. Please pack a small bag with your essentials, such as medication, which can be carried with you as hand luggage. If you have a travel companion, we recommend that you pack a few items in each other’s luggage. If your luggage goes missing, you will still have some of your items and a change of clothes available.
The mean temperature in Longyearbyen in May is -5ºC, in June +2ºC, in July +4ºC, in August +3ºC and in September -1ºC. In other parts of the archipelago the temperatures are a few degrees below the mean temperature in Longyearbyen. Due to the wind factor the temperatures sometimes seem to be much lower.
Notice! During the early and late seasons, mainly in April-May and September, the days can feel colder than the thermometer shows. Remember to pack an extra warm layer of clothes if you travel during this season
We recommend you dress in layers, it allows you to easily adjust to variations in temperature. Wear three layers or more. To get rid of perspiration, insulate you from the cold and protect you against the wind. The layering method also allows you to easily adjust your clothing when the weather and temperatures change. Make sure to bring an extra layer if you are travelling early or late season, as the temperature can be a bit lower.
When going ashore by Zodiacs, make sure to wear waterproof jacket/trousers and tall rubber boots. Below you will find some instructions on how to dress in polar climate, followed by an equipment checklist..
THE INNER LAYER
The layer closest to your skin must get rid of perspiration from your body to keep you dry and warm. Recommended materials are wool or synthetic materials. Cotton should never be worn close to the body.
THE MIDDLE LAYER
This layer provides insulation and retains body heat without restricting movement. Suitable materials for this layer are fleece or wool. It is better to wear several thin layers than one thick layer. On cold days you may need extra insulation. This way you control your body temperature.
THE OUTER LAYER
The main function of this layer is to offer protection against the wind and water, but also to let out excess body heat. Therefore, it is good to use breathable materials such as Gore-Tex or similar. .
Your head is like the body’s funnel and we always recommend bringing a warm hat! Preferable materials are synthetic fibre or wool, if possible windproof.
HANDS AND FEET
These parts of your body are particularly sensitive. It is important to keep hands and feet dry and warm. The same layering method applies here. Use inner gloves made of synthetic fibre, silk or wool and cover with a wind/waterproof mitten. Mittens are much warmer than gloves. Please remember to bring an extra pair of mittens. You should wear inner socks of synthetic fibre and cover with layers of wool or synthetic socks. A pair of solid knee-high rubber boots is the secret weapon when going ashore with the Zodiacs. It is also wise to bring wool insoles.
If you are considering bringing special equipment of any kind, please contact the PolarQuest office before travelling.
CONSERVATION & SAFETY GUIDELINES
LANDINGS WITH ZODIACS
Always pay attention to your expedition leader and guides. Do not hesitate to ask them if you have questions regarding the landing procedures. Passengers must be aware of certain regulations involving the Zodiacs in order to ensure safety in our operations. A briefing will also be given by our guides.
- The boat driver oversees the boat and its operations. His/her instructions must always be followed.
- There will be wet landings (you will need to wade ashore). We advise passengers to wear rubber boots and appropriate waterproof clothing as protection from sea spray or rain when in the rubber boats. Use a water proof bag (or bring along a small plastic bag) to protect items such as cameras and binoculars.
- Always wear the life jackets provided when in the rubber boat. This is for your safety, and is required at all times regardless of weather and sea conditions.
- Accept the helping hands of crew members and drivers when stepping into or out of the rubber boat at the ship’s gangway. Keep both hands free for this operation, and use the “Sailor’s grip” (i.e. grip each other by the wrist).
- Minimise the number of items you bring into the rubber boat. Backpacks are ideal for loose items such as cameras, binoculars, medication etc. It allows you to have both hands free.
- If you have a loose item, it should be handed to the driver/crew member before embarking/disembarking the rubber boat.
WILDLIFE & NATURE
- When ashore, always stay with your group and your guides. Due to polar bears and for your safety, never wander off on your own.
- Watch your step and keep to established paths when possible. In cold and dry habitats the recovery of plants is very slow.
- Be extremely careful among breeding colonies of seabirds and ground nesting birds.
Approach wildlife slowly when taking photographs and retreat from the subject just as carefully.
- Never disturb wildlife for the sake of a photograph.
- Be careful not to startle or chase any bird from its nest. Your attention to a nesting or moulting bird should never be prolonged when a predator is in the vicinity. Foxes, gulls and skuas are always luring to raid exposed nests.
- Monitor your surroundings and be sensitive to any disruption you may be causing. If an animal shows signs of distress or avoidance, move away.
- Look but never touch. These are wild animals going about their daily business. We wish to observe natural behaviour in its natural state.
- Never feed wild animals.
- In order not to introduce new species into Svalbard please wash your boots at home and make sure that no seeds are included in the packaging or clothing (pockets, velcro, etc).
- Return all litter to the ship for proper disposal. This includes litter of all types, such as plastic bags and paper tissues.
- It is not allowed to collect natural souvenirs such as shells, rocks, feathers, bones or fossils.
- Keep noise level to a minimum.
- Never smoke ashore.
BINOCULARS & PHOTOGRAPHY
Good binoculars are highly recommended and will add quality to your travel experience.
All binoculars are listed by power and brightness, e.g. 8x32 or 10x50. The first number indicates magnification and the second the diameter of the front lens. At least 8x-power is recommended, 8x32 or 10x42 binoculars are good choices.
“Wide-field” binoculars allow you to see a wider area making it easier to spot wildlife.
Compact models, in the 8x25 range, can fit in a pocket and are very lightweight, but sacrifice brightness and field of vision.
Rubber coated models are generally more shock resistant and some of these are also waterproof.
For many of us, photography is a natural part of travel. Therefore, we have summarised the most basic recommendations regarding photography.
Equipment: Whatever type of camera you use, make sure it is working properly before you leave home. If you have a new camera or have a camera that has not been used for a while, it is a good idea to take some pictures before travelling to ensure that it works properly. Also remember to bring your camera manual.
Batteries: Bad batteries account for the largest percentage of camera problems on expeditions, especially in cold climates. For this reason, please bring extra camera batteries with you, even if the one in your camera is new.
Memory cards: Rule of thumb is to bring more memory cards than you believe you will need.
Tripods and Beanbags: Tripods, which are often used to steady cameras with large telephoto lenses, are not useful on ships, as they tend to transmit the ship’s vibrations. If you are bringing a lens larger than 300 mm, you might consider bringing a beanbag to support your camera. Unlike tripods, beanbags tend to absorb the ship’s vibrations.
Maintenance: Particles or water can easily stick on the camera lens, which can reduce the image quality. For this reason, we recommend you to bring a microfiber cloth designed for optics.
Storage: Cameras are in general sensitive to water, moisture and shock. A bag/backpack for protection is recommended.
Please note! Regarding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as a drones: AECO and PolarQuest do not allow any general use of UAVs by passengers in the “AECO-areas”.