We didn’t think we’d be staying long… Calypsobyen is the largest NEC installation in Bellsund. NEC, the Northern Exploration Company (yes the same one that had the disappointing attempt at extracting marble from Ny London), set up camp here at the end of WW1. The area was named after the HMS Calypso that surveyed it in 1895. by 1920 however, attempts to mine coal were finished. Not only was the source small, but the bay provides no shelter, making it near impossible to transport coal in bad weather or big swells.
Fortunately for us, it was flat calm when we landed (and remained so). We figured, as it was pretty late, that we’d have a quick wonder then get on our way back to Isfjord and Pyramided, our last stop on the spectacular adventure. Researchers Piotr Zagorski and colleagues from the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University (Lublin, Poland) had other ideas in mind however. As we anchored we noticed smoke coming from one of the bigger cabins.
We didn’t want to skirt around it in case they preferred not to have visitors, but we definitely weren’t expecting to be invited in! Piotr popped his head out the front door as we wondered past and immediately suggested we come in for a cup of tea (do we look that English?!). Now Piotr heads up a team of PhD students, post-docs, technicians and surveyors in Svalbard. He’s been visiting for almost fifteen years now, studying glaciology in the Arctic. If you want to know anything about the geology or geography (and probably various other ‘ologies) of Bellsund, he is definitely the person to talk to. And he is more than happy to share. But his team weren’t just studying glaciers, they were doing surveys of the landscape, looking at the flora and fauna and, of course, becoming avid Arctic photographers. We saw maps and movies and photographs that put our efforts to shame.
We drank tea and met the whole team as they trickled in from various excursions. Two of the members had lived in London so were happy to reminisce. Eventually though, we made our way off, had a short walk along the beach. There were several buildings, all larger than most of what we’d seen so far.
And various remnants of the mining days.
As always, wood keeps much better than metal and the research team were making the most of the buildings – they had a generator and rooms full of supplies and experiments.
An old whaling boat along the shore provided the perfect spot for Arctic Terns to nest away safely tucked away from the foxes.
I got a little too close…
This is the actual entrance to the old mine shaft…
We did eventually head off again; around 1am we climbed back into our dinghy and headed for Pyramiden, the Russian mining town tucked up at the tip of Isfjord. It will be our last big sail and our last stop before Dr D and I head back to London.