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Last season in the ice

Noorderlicht at port of Longyearbyen. FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

Last season in the ice

The Noorderlicht has spent its final season frozen in the ice in Svalbard. "Now we are looking for an alternative," said Steinar Rorgemoen, administrative director Basecamp Spotsbergen.

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08.06.2015 kl 08:35

The distinctive red schooner allowed itself to freeze in the ice at Tempelfjorden in January of this year and remained there until May 23. The ship then received help from Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard with its icebreaking capabilities to get out of the ice.

This apparently was the final season for the freeze-in, with the ship scheduled to spend next winter in the Troms region.

"It has been a fantastic partnership for twelve years and now they will sail to Lyngen during the winter, as it has something with a desire for variation," Rorgemoen said.

"There is a time for everything and it's on friendly terms."


Outside the box

The schooner was built in Flensburg in 1910 and for most of its life trafficked around the Baltic States. In 1991, it was rigged and taken over by new owners, with a current capacity for 20 guests. The much-promoted tourist concept of a "ship in the ice" has existed for 15 years, the two first with a Russian ship and the next year with a Swedish vessel before the Noorderlicht – which translates in English to "Northern Lights" – came up to Svalbard. With the exception of the winter 2014, when there was no ice in the fjords, the ship has been frozen in the ice. The two-mast vessel was highly visible and gradually become an icon for tourists on Svalbard.

Since 2002, an estimated total of between 6,600 and 7,200 guests stayed on board. The goal was to create an offering that could be linked to Fritjof Nansen's ice cruise aboard his famous polar vessel, according to Basecamp Spitsbergen.

"We thought then that we had to have a ship that has a greater relation to the Fram and came on the trail of the Noorderlicht," Rorgemoen said.

"This is the only freeze-in hotel ship on Earth and kind of a symbol of what one can achieve if one dares to think outside the box."


Became a tradition
Basecamp Spitsbergen was established after parent company Basecamp Explorer built up its offerings in Kenya. The opposite setting was Svalbard and, after establishing activities involving dogs and snow caves, the question arose of how to create an overnight lodging option in the field during the winter.

The successor to the Noorderlicht will not be a schooner, according to Rorgemoen, but The Governor of Svalbard's list of requirements for approval is lengthy. But Rorgemoen said the offering will continue, and there will be some combination of a vessel and crew spending a lot of time on the ice.

"You have to have the right people who understand the product and who are willing to be out on the ice for such a long time. But we are very open," he said, noting the ship averages 600 overnight guest stays each season.

For the Coast Guard ship, "Operation Noorderlicht" became a tradition.

"It has been almost a fixed activity for the K/V Svalbard to break the sailing vessel out of the ice by May each year," said Vegard Oen Hatten, a spokesman for the Norwegian navy.

The Noorderlicht is owned by Oceanwide Expeditions, whose fleet also includes the Rembrant van Rijn, Planicus and Ortelius.


Translated by Mark Sabbatini

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