Saturday, 1 October 2016

Arctic Expedition - Day 2, Longyearbyen and environs Oct 1st

So a free day today - no getting on the boat until Monday apparently - which hasn't pleased some of us.  I decide to walk and explore and draw. The walk into town centre is a 20 minute downhill hike, but (ignoring and skirting past the warning sign of danger up ahead) I branched off to climb up the hill to see one of the old mines - a ramshackle wooden building which doesn't look at all safe, and clearly had seen better days, although one wonders if it was ever really safe to work in.

It was strangely eerie, as though the place had suddenly abandoned and all the workers had just dropped what ever they had been doing and left - stuff strewn around it, an old shovel half in the ground as though whoever had been digging had been interrupted mid digging...............  It also afforded a good view down the valley of the town.
Having slipped and edged my way back down the rather steep path I continued walking into town, and after a protracted coffee stop for some really strong stuff (sadly missing at the hostel) I made my way down to the sea shore and sat drawing for an hour (I will photograph and post these another time), before retracing my steps to join a minibus tour of Longyearbyen and beyond and some of the history and politics of a place that is governed by a treaty of 30 countries.
To say the landscape here is awesome is not enough; it is breath-taking.  And we've not out on the boat yet. The mist and darkness drawing in just added to the drama of the place as we drove passed the reservoir - under which lie the only thermals in the area - most of the ground being permafrost - and then on upwards to the tops of the mountains to visit the science research stations that are dotted up in the snowy high grounds - monitors for northern lights activities, satellite dishes monitoring... well I'm not sure what.

I can tell you now - there will be a lot of painting and large drawings to come out of this trip.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Arctic Day 1 Longyearbyen 30/9/16

My first view from Longyearbyen Airport

Can't actually believe I am here. I felt quite emotional as we touched down. Here are the views -and this is just from the airport... can you believe it!! 
Having dragged my 2 large bags out of the airport I met most of my companions for the next few weeks as we gathered beside the minibus, loading our luggage and exchanging greetings and hand shakes, and I've promply forgotten their names. I've also met my room mate who's just spent the last 3 weeks in a desert making a light sculpture. She has decorated our windowsill with sweet chestnuts gathered in Oslo.

And now it's snowing! 

I am feeling overwhelmed. Surrounding me are hugh rock faces - which look as if they are covered in layers of dust sculpted by the winds - I've no idea what kind of rock it is. From the window of my room the building is without a roof - it blew off in the last hurricane and no-one knows where it landed. No wind today though. On the way up to the guesthouse we passed the only power station in the town, and coal mines - mining the last of the coal to come out of this region, finally depleted over the last years of intensive mining. But at the moment Longyearbyen is a quiet place. Sound seems muted. 

Water pipes snake around the town - water is pumped to each house in pipes above ground since the ground is constantly frozen. Boarded up wooden houses look abandoned - some by the mining community that is slowly but surely disappearing. It has the feel of being rather like frontier place... which I guess in some ways it is. But there is a culture house, a Raddisson Hotel (where the avalanch fell last year), a shopping centre and a young and healthily growing population (as the coach driver remarked, what else is there to do on the long nights?). 
More later....

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Arctic calls 29th Sept 2016

Had a frantic week doing Open Studios while trying to finish paintings for my solo show in November, and also trying to remember all the things I needed and had forgotten pack.  But now here I am on my way to Longyearbyen...
 Left Heathrow with a beautiful pink sky slowly appearing as the plane turned and headed east; a mass of small clouds drifting below us.

 Arrived in Olso this evening - and the most difficult bit was getting my trolley piled high with my 2 large cases (one for arctic clothing and one for art materials) through my room door in the hotel room (shhh, don't tell them!).
Thought I'd share my birthday card - made by my lovely son.  Maybe slightly too close for comfort... and probably the only view I'll get of polar bears.

Early start tomorrow - still I already have the trolley ready!

Thank you to all of you who have supported me and bought my little paintings - there are only a few left... so if you want to be tempted.. check out the last post before this.

See you in Longyearbyen...