Jun 162011

So the day had finally arrived….after a night in the land of the midnight sun, we were off to 78 degrees north – several hundred kilometers north of the arctic circle.

There were only about 20 people in the gate area, so we were expecting that the flight would be pretty empty. However, based on the online seat map (available until right before boarding) the flight was packed…what was going on? Soon we realised that the flight was a through flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen with a stop in Tromsø – so that explained it.

Soon the plane pulled up, and over 100 people began to slowly pile into the gate area after clearing immigration to exit the Schengen at Tromsø. I know I had looked into this option when booking, but I felt that a gradual trek north with the chance to spend a couple days each in a couple of other cities would make things more interesting – very glad we did!

Boarding was a pretty chaotic affair. Everyone surged to the podium when the first announcement in Norwegian was made so we followed suit. We’d been unable to secure an exit row at e-checkin time, but the through flight explained why. Lots of folks were probably also connecting off of transcontinental flights and thus checked in quite early. Seems people head to Svalbard without spending any time in the rest of Norway – pity.

We were in two different reservations for this one, with two star golds in one, and two non-status folks in the other. We were able to get 1D and 1F for the star golds, but the first few rows appeared to be blocked for non-elites. However, strangely, they could select the exit row! So, we put them in 12D and 12E and everyone was reasonable happy for a 1:45 or so flight.

Flight turned out to be 90% full, so most middle seats were full. We had a chap who’d come all the way from Sydney between us, so our mild discomfort of sharing a middle for this short flight was nothing compared to how much it must have sucked for him coming off of intercontinental business class!

Flight SK 4414
Tromsø (TOS) to Longyearbyen, Svalbard (LYR)
Depart 12:20 Arrive 14:00
Boeing 737-800
Registration LN-RRF, manufactured 2008
Seats 1D and 1F

Really, not much to say on the actual flight – sorry to disappoint. It went by pretty quickly thanks to a great book and a couple of $5 Diet Cokes, and soon we saw the icy ruggedness of Svalbard below. Our first view was snow everywhere:

Followed by even more snow:

Which was followed by the craggy mountains of southern Svalbard:

Shortly we were on decent into Longyearbyen Airport. I have to admit, it was one of the spookier descents I’ve done in a long time. There was heavy cloud cover, but when we would pop through all I would see is craggy mountains on all sides. I trusted the 737-800 knew the passes in between, but was still unnerving to pop out of the clouds right between a couple mountains.

Of course, nothing happened, and soon we were landing on the permafrost and doing a 180 on the runway to taxi to the terminal. Bags came out pretty quickly, well, after all of the skin bags, arctic packs, etc. This is definitely somewhere I want to come back to for a couple weeks of camping and trekking in the areas away from Longyearbyen!

Oh, and just one picture from baggage claim:

Next Up: Part VI. Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Funken Hotel, and the Spitsbergen Marathon

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