Noorderlicht: The Ice-bound Ship Hotel

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Noorderlicht, or Northern Lights in Dutch, is a two-masted schooner that spends the summer taking tourists around the Arctic region, particularly the Norwegian islands of Svalbard, and other remote places in the archipelago searching for wildlife. Then just before the winter sets in, the ship is sailed to Tempelfjorden, a fjord at Spitsbergen, and allowed to freeze in the sea ice where it becomes a unique ice-bound hotel.

The SV Noordelicht was originally named Fs Kalkgrund II, and was built in Flensburg, Germany in 1910, as a three-masted schooner. She was used as a light vessel as well as a weather ship and pilot station. During World War II, she was renamed Flensburg and began to serve the German Navy. Her middle mast was taken out to improve stability, and an anti-aircraft gun was fitted. The ship retired from service in 1963, after which she served different purposes, once functioning as a worker’s hostel and another time as a sailing clubhouse. She was bought by her current owners in 1991 and given a thorough re-fitting, strengthening her bow to face the Arctic ice. The ship was renamed Noorderlicht, and since then she has been functioning as an adventure cruise vessel.

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Noorderlicht's operates out of Longyearbyen, in Spitsbergen, with voyages within the Svalbard archipelago, the Lofoten Islands and to mainland locations, all within polar regions. The ship has 10 cabins that provide accommodation for up to 20 passengers. Two inflatable boats are carried aboard that enables landing and wildlife viewing opportunities in otherwise inaccessible areas.

In autumn, the ship sails up Tempelfjorden and waits for weeks for the ice to set in and secure the ship in place. It can take a month of delicate maneuvers before the crew gets the ship properly stuck. Once the ship becomes trapped and immovable, guests starts pouring in. The ship is embedded in ice roughly 60km north east of Longyearbyen, and this journey over the frozen waters is long and can be dangerous, and the only transportation method is by snowmobile or dog sled. During their stay on the ship, guests are taken on land excursions to see penguins, seals, walruses, arctic foxes, birds and even polar bears.

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Sources: Oceanwide Expedition / Wikipedia / The Guardian

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