(Cont. from part 8) Four hours later, we moved the boat out of Hornbaekpollen and into the beautiful half-moon bay at Texas Bar. Turns out, the place is just a hut, and a tiny one at that, with a huge TEXAS BAR written on the front of it in wooden driftwood, nailed to the walls. An old ship’s hatch sits out front with a couple of makeshift driftwood benches. The hut blends right into the grey scenery - it’s a very basic four-walled structured covered in tar paper to keep it watertight and with a stainless steel chimney sticking out the top. Half of its footprint is dedicated to firewood storage. The place is maintained by Sysselmannen as one of a series of emergency huts scattered around Svalbard for us and adventurers in the bush who get caught out. We’re not sure on the origins of the hut - it’s almost certainly a trapper’s hut originally - but that’s it’s purpose now.
While Mia, James, Kiril & I moved the boat, Karin, Alex, Brady & Brian took the dinghy out ahead with some cookout supplies, matches, old cardboard to use as a fire starter and the sausages we planned to grill on the hut’s tiny wood stove. Brady climbed to a hill to the north to film us coming around and anchoring Isbjorn right off the beach and within a hundred meters of the hut itself. Just over the hill to the west, a small meltwater pond supplied freshwater for the hut (and for us).
When we dropped anchor, smoke was already coming out of the chimney. Brian had gotten a fire going, then came out to pick us up in the dinghy. By now we’re old hands at the dinghy safety routine - load up the rifles, survival suit, med kit with flares, portable VHF, EPIRB, etc.
This mission felt a little more tame, as we’d be within a stone's throw and in sight of Isbjorn the entire time, but still.
The hut had two entrances, an outer door into a tiny foyer of sorts where a stock of firewood is kept dry, then another inner door that leads into the hut proper. In the right corner just inside the inner door sits the small wood stove, barely big enough for a pot to boil hot dogs on, yet enough to keep the cabin warm even in winter. The floor plan was square, maybe 8’ by 8’, with bunk beds opposite the stove and a small table underneath a two-pane window looking out onto the fjord and to Isbjorn anchored in the bay. A shelf on the back wall between the stove and the beds held a few bottles of booze - a cheap plastic bottle of Vodka left by Mats on ‘Humla’ from last year presumably; a bottle of Jack Daniels, which the guys had gotten into the night before; and the bottle of Delos moonshine we left for the next visitors to the hut.
Somehow all eight of us managed to squeeze inside, even with a few cameras. Most of the gear went on the top bunk, while Mia, James, Alex, Karin and I squeeze on the bottom bunk. Brady sat on the floor by the door and tended the wood stove and the hot dog pot. Brian found a stool with his back against the ‘bar’. And Kiril sat opposite us across the table. Mia had whipped up hummus and brought some chips and salsa, which we snacked on while the hot dogs boiled on the wood fire.
We’d used all of our fresh water to boil the hotdogs, and after a while we got thirsty. I volunteered to go on a mission to find more. James was convinced there’d be a source nearby. “Pretty dumb place to build a hut if there isn’t one,” he joked. (This was before we’d found the pond).
I ventured outside, careful to take the rifle along, and followed the worn path up the hill behind the hut and leading west. Once over the rise I had a view down to huge mud plain, what was left after the glacier had retreated way up the mountain to the south. Everything was quiet, and I realized it was the first time I was alone in the landscape up here and not on the boat or with one of the other crew. The feeling I had was at once one of peace and awe, but also a bit of stress. The starkness of the landscape and the knowledge that a polar bear could actually be just over the next rise gave me pause. But overwhelmingly I felt a feeling of ease at being this far into such a remote wilderness, felt privileged for those few minutes in the landscape on my own.
The path led straight to the pond, a crystal-clear and very cold freshwater source fed not by the glacier (glacial water isn’t good for drinking - it’s way too silty and had far too many minerals in it), but by snowmelt off the 700-meter hills to the south. Reindeer footprints led to the water’s edge. It tasted delightful. I drank a few bottles full before filling up the three water bottles we’d brought along and returning to the hut to join the group.
The hot dogs were done when I got back and we feasted. We spent the next several hours in that little hut eating boiled hot dogs, then grilling up the ‘sizzler’ sausages Mia brought from the boat and eating them too. Afterwards, while we cleaned up, the Delos gang finished filming the interviews we’d started at the glacier. Then, bellies and hearts full, we returned to Isbjorn and set sail. The clocks said 0030, and the sun was started to light up the glaciers to the south.
Until next time, HOLD FAST!