Category: Svalbard

Going to the North Pole

Just in time for Christmas, we are going to do another time warp back to 2008. We’re going to the North Pole. Maybe not quite, but pretty darned close. We are going to the Arctic to a place called Svalbard. Svalbard is a group of islands about half way between Norway and the North Pole. This particular travel destination is also referred to as Spitsbergen, which is the largest of the islands in the Svalbard Archipelago.

I am terribly excited to be going back to Svalbard, and happy it was the destination people voted for to see next in our travel remembrances. I may have been the only one who voted, but I am sure you will have a good time if you follow along. There is a very brief baby blog on this trip included in the More Travel Stories, but this one will be filled with Lou’s photos. And we all seem to enjoy seeing things from his perspective. I will also add in some of my photos as needed.

We ended up doing this trip as a replacement to the trip we had booked to Antarctica. But in no way was it a second-best choice. In fact, had the Antarctica trip not been cancelled, we may never have made it to Svalbard, which would have been just too sad 😢

6 and 7 July 2008

We flew in to Oslo Norway and stayed at a very nice hotel by the airport. We didn’t do any sightseeing in the city – one of the inconveniences of traveling while still having to work for a living – we would be gone for almost 2 weeks on the photo tour, and that was already a stretch.

We met our group at the airport on July 7th, where we were all flying to Longyearbyen … the kick off point for our cruise. I use the term cruise lightly. This was NOT a luxury cruise. It was very basic. Our ship was an older Russian research vessel that had been converted to carry 48 passengers. Accommodations were very basic, food was plentiful but not fancy, and the Russian Staff were friendly and accommodating. We ended up with a suite located right next to the Captain’s quarters. I’m not sure how we ended up with the best cabin on the ship, but it had something to do with transferring from the Antarctica trip. It was a great room, but it has unfortunately set the bar for all of our future trips. We had a seating area separated from the bed, and our own bathroom facilities. We also had windows out the front and the port side of the ship.

7 July 2008

We were bussed directly to the Port in Longyearbyen on arrival at the airport – we will get a chance to visit the city on our return. We then took a zodiac ride to get to our ship. Seriously, this was amazing. We had never done anything like this. And had no idea what to expect.

After getting settled and exploring the ship – sorry, this is before I knew I wanted to be a travel photographer, so no details of the room or meals 😞 – we found our way to the outside decks. There were many places to take photographs on the ship’s decks. And we had great views from our cabin.

Click to enlarge the photos.

The scenery!!! It was 11 years ago, and we still talk about how absolutely amazing it was. The colors of the sky and water were so blue, if the sun was shining. So grey and very other worldly when the sun was obscured by clouds. The sun NEVER set. We experienced the phenomenon of 24 hours of daylight. Holy S$&t … that was something else. Lou did an exceptional job of capturing our first day in the Arctic.

We began to lose some of the bright sunshine, as clouds showed up, but we had plenty to see. This was our first real experience with trying to capture birds in flight.

These may not be the most exciting bird species, but they made great target practice as we worked on technique.

And then, it was overcast and grey, and there was a LOT of ice in front of us. More people popped out on deck to check things out. Holy Moly … can we continue?

We did just fine … our ship was a hearty one, and our Russian Captain knew his stuff. But I would be lying if I said we didn’t have our hearts in our throats (or wherever they go when nerves get the best of you). This concludes our first “day” onboard. What a freaking awesome experience. I use quotes for the word “day” because I don’t think we ever adapted to 24 hours of sunlight. We ended up just going with it … sleeping when we could, going out on deck to take pics when we were wide awake.

Lou made a point of documenting our location throughout the cruise. Here is where we ended the day.

I think we tried to get some sleep before the next day, but can’t remember if we were successful.

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