A Taste of the Arctic

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A Taste of the Arctic – Reykjavik, Grimsey Island & Svalbard

This post comes from the northernmost point in Europe, North Cape (Nordkapp). I spent the last couple of weeks above the Arctic Circle (latitude 66° 33′ 44″ north and higher) with Zegrahm Expeditions.  Going there was a rather impromptu decision that I made mid-June, having had enough of the summer heat and becoming increasingly desperate to fulfil my childhood dream of one day seeing polar bears in real life.  This seemed particularly pressing after having recently read an article on how polar bears may actually disappear within the next five to ten years due to climate change….

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Our second polar bear sighting

I travelled from Reykjavik, capital of Iceland, crossing the Arctic Circle via Grimsey Island, Iceland, reaching Svalbard archipelago through the island of Jan Mayen, followed by the circumnavigation of the island of Spitsbergen, finishing in the town of Tromso, Norway.

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Glacier

In the Arctic, you are completely overwhelmed by the sense of the sublime: an overwhelming feeling of awe produced by magnificent landscapes and spectacular wildlife sightings becomes more prominent with the lack of human presence, due to hostile conditions during winter months. As a precursor for the full post on my experience in the Arctic, here are a few, amongst many, highlights from this trip:

  1. Reaching the latitude of 80 degrees north, 600 nautical miles from the North Pole!
  2. Three polar bear sightings, four polar bears in total, in Svalbard.
  3. Waking up one morning at 5.30am to brilliant sunshine and to several humpback whales feeding right next to the ship.
  4. Sitting on my balcony, looking at the midnight sun, watching orcas swim alongside the ship, while sipping champagne.
  5. Taking in all the spectacular, often desolate, Arctic scenery: stunning rock formations; abundance of ice in various forms: glaciers, icebergs, sea ice; proliferation of small stunted arctic plants; stretches of black sandy beaches.
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My favourite beach in Svalbard

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Stunning scenery, don’t you agree?

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On Grimsey Island, Iceland, which is transected by the Arctic Circle. This photo was taken at the exact latitude of 66° 33′, according to our GPS

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Glacial Ice

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Bear Island (Norway) and my second favourite beach of the trip!

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Svalbard reindeer

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Just one of many stunning landscapes during the trip

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A very shaggy looking arctic fox (thank you to Jim Wilson for this great photo)

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Hiking around this island felt like hiking on the moon.

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Shop sign in Longyearbyen

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Midnight sun. Going to the Arctic was my first experience of white nights.

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Beach at Smeerenburg: almost felt like the Carribean (apart from the snowy mountains all around)

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Humpback whale sighting at 6am on a Monday morning: what an incredible start to the day!

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Commander Roy of Jan Mayen Island, currently a Norwegian military base. This remote island only gets 300 visitors a year!

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Moss Campion: a “compass plant” since its flowers are always facing south!

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Great skuas fighting over food

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Beach lounging in the sun!

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Our Southernmost stop on the island of Spitsbergen

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My day bag containing two cameras and a spare lens, my binoculars for watching animals and birds, an extra jumper and a bottle of water.

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Ever changing view from my bedroom.

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Prior to seeing a real bear



17 responses to “A Taste of the Arctic”

  1. Josh Walker says:

    Awesome awesome trip! This looks so cool.Was it easy to organise and how long will the whole thing be??

    Josh

  2. Olga says:

    it was an awesome trip indeed! It was 18 days long, including 16 days of actual sailing from Reykjavik to Tromso. It was a group trip, organised by Zegrahm Expedition (http://www.zegrahm.com/). Next summer they are doing a similar itinerary called WIld Norway & Svalbard

    http://www.zegrahm.com/expeditions/arctic/wild-norway-spitsbergen/itinerary?departure=SPIT1501#axzz37F2TZu20

  3. Anastasia says:

    Как красиво.. Я планирую поездку в Патагонию в конце года, и меня все чаще посещает мысль – может доехать до Антарктиды? Она там совсем рядом)))
    А то правда, через пять лет все расстает и смотреть уже будет не на что…

    P.s отличный блог!)

    Настя

    http://fashionpeekaboo.com

  4. Olga says:

    да можно! есть экспедиций с ноября до марта, разные маршруты: есть просто Антарктида, а есть и поездки которые включают Фолклендские острова и Южная Георгия.

    http://www.zegrahm.com/expeditions/antarctica#axzz37F2TZu20

    я тоже очень туда мечтаю съездить!

  5. Paul says:

    Having the opportunity to experience the stunning Arctic scenery ranging from alpine mountains to rough seas and Arctic glaciers is a dream come true for many tourists.

  6. Great post Olga, some stunning scenery!

  7. Ann says:

    wow! What an amazing experience! I wish I could visit and see all that wildlife and animals! So beautiful!
    xxxx

    http://www.heyliao.blogspot.com

    • Olga says:

      it was definitely one of the most amazing experiences in my life :). having seen polar bears in real life still feels surreal!

  8. WIKI says:

    ABSOLUTELY AMAZING ! I WANT TO BE HERE !!! http://www.vicirage.blogspot.com/
    http://www.vicirage.blogspot.com/ PLEASE FOLLOW AND VISIT MY BLOG

  9. tunuevolook says:

    very nice post !! i follow you!
    Visit my blog: Tu Nuevo Look
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  10. Olga your pictures are amazing!!! Going to Svalbard is a dream of mine, and your post makes me wanna pack my bags right away! Didn’t know you could see and take pictures of so much wildlife!! Amazing!! Well done 🙂

  11. What a stunning photo diary! I would love to see some polar bears too and am worried about the climate change..

    Ali
    Pretty in Python
    xx

  12. Lauren says:

    Hi my name is Lauren and I make artwork about the Arctic. I was wondering if I could use your photo of the beach at Smeerenburg as a reference for one of my embroidered artworks?
    Thanks for the consideration!

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