Spitzbergen, Svalbard - 2015
When I was much younger than I am now, I used to love the romance and adventure of air travel. This trip reminded me of that ‘first love’. The excitement and anticipation of something new and of a real Indiana Jones adventure, my heart pounding with anticipation.
The adventure began when we flew into Oslo airport before flying on to Longyearbyen, where we spent the ‘night’ (the sun didn’t set) before boarding our vessel, the following day, to sail around Spitzbergen looking for the elusive polar bear.
Polar bear truly live in the wilderness. The ice is an unforgiving terrain, as are the landmasses of the archipelago – freezing temperatures and lack of vegetation reminded me of a moonscape.
There is very little soil here, the land area being made up of sand, gravel, lime etc. There are no forests or agricultural areas. It’s a truly barren landscape. A bit of a shock for someone who comes from a place which is almost always green and lush. Whilst there is ice and a lot of sea water, there is very little actual rain in Spitzbergan, so its very difficult for anything of substance to grow.
Our first sighting of wildlife were a pod of beluga wales which came into the port before we had even weigh anchor. Unfortunately they didn’t breach the surface long enough for a photo opportunity. Our first sighting of a Polar bear was the following day, a loan male walking along the shoreline, trying to cope with the high temperatures whilst wearing his very heavy and thick winter coat.
The cloud didn’t lift for some days and grey skies prevailed, which made photography challenging. Whilst looking for polar bear and other wildlife, a small group of us had the welcome distraction of the sea kayaks which gave us a certain amount of freedom and enabled us to explore the coastline. With camera shake in a moving vessel though, it made photography almost impossible!
I loved every moment of our journey. The Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox. The kayaking, the people and the landscape. The grey skies and low cloud made the photography more of a challenge. I would have liked to have gone for longer and would have loved to have gone further into the ice towards the North Pole. The silence of the artic and the majesty of the Polar Bear, venturing into the unknown, all of those elements together made the trip worthwhile and I would go back, ever hopeful the Polar Bear have increased in number and that their natural habitat has been saved and assured for generations to come.