August 17, 2007
I woke up for the first time in a few weeks without an alarm clock for my shift at 3:30 am! I actually slept until 6:45 am - late! I took my linens down to the lavanderia and had the final meal onboard the ship before getting ready to leave. We were to board the zodiacs at 8:30 am and then come back to the ship at 18:00 when the ship would be at the dock to get our luggage. Seven of us could ride in the zodiac at a time and we had to put on our lifejackets to board. It was a quick trip to the shore where I finally felt land for the first time in 18 days! What a bizarre feeling! I was very worried that I would feel "landsick", as I was fortunate enough to not become seasick on the boat for the whole trip. I had my lean on as I walked and felt like the leaning tower of Pisa (if it were animated), but that was about it - so far so good. It was fabulous to be back on land! I cannot fathom being like the naval crew and staying out for approximately 300 days per year. That must be difficult. We all walked from the dock back into town to get a cup of coffee (which we had not had onboard, because the caffeine is supposed to magnify seasickness). The mile and a half walk was incredible.
After coffee, several of us went to the museum, but I had already been through it. So, Elena, Jose Luis and I walked around shops looking for souvenirs of our trip. It seems as if everything had polar bears on them, but that was the one thing that I had not seen on the trip. Except for the stuffed ones in town! Regardless, I was completely satisfied from seeing the whales, puffins and the reindeer during my trip. We all met back up for lunch and had our first meal off the ship - wouldn't you know it - potatoes served as a side with my fish cakes! I could not escape from potatas! After lunch a few went back to the hotel for a siesta before dinner and I went with a group up to the Svalbard Art Museum. There were beautiful works of snow and landscapes and some ancient maps of the polar region. That was really neat because some of them did not include North America, but just had a blank spot. My country was not even on the map! Wow, that's old. It was also interesting to think about the explorers that were hardy enough back then to brave the freezing waters with the flimsy equipment available in wooden ships with questionable navigation! It almost seems like we cheat today with our Gore-tex, capilene, GPS, satellites, ice breaking ships, etc! Not even close to what they experienced.
At 20:00 we all met at the restaurant for our last meal together - after 54 meals together, this was a sad prospect! The choices were whale meat or fish. Norway, like Japan, does not follow the International Whaling Commission guidelines due to cultural preferences. Apparently they do restrict the hunting and only kill certain species which are regulated. I chose the fish, but told Monica that I would try a piece of the whale that she got. I figured that it would be the only time that I got an opportunity to do so and sometimes it is important to follow the old adage, "when in Rome....". Surprisingly, it tasted very "beefy". It was interesting, but I am glad that I did get an entire steak of it. Such a great last meal together with my new friends, I will really miss them and hope to take them up on the invitations to visit Spain.