Category: Svalbard

Svalbard … The Final Day

16 July 2008

We arrived back at the dock in Longyearbyen early on the morning of July 16th. Say goodbye to our Arctic Adventure.

And hello to the town of Longyearbyen:

Don’t forget … clicking the photo brings up a larger version. This should work for most of the images.

Longyearbyen is the largest Northernmost settlement (with over 1,000 people) in the world. It has about 2,000 residents.

“The American industrialist John Munroe Longyear visited Spitsbergen as a tourist in 1901, where he met with an expedition prospecting for coal. He returned to Spitsbergen 1903, where he met Henrik B. Næss in Adventfjorden, who gave him samples and information on coal fields. Along with his associate Frederick Ayer, Longyear bought the Norwegian claims on the west side of Adventfjorden, and expanded the claims significantly the following year. In 1906, the Boston-based Arctic Coal Company, with Ayer and Longyear as the main shareholders, started mining in Mine 1a, after having built docks and housing.[7] The company had American administration, but mostly Norwegian labourers, and named the town Longyear City.[6] Coal was transported the 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) from the mine to the port using an aerial tramway

Skipping to present day, Norway has ceased coal operations in Svalbard, except for one small mine for local use. We learned many interesting things about this area when we visited their tourist center and museum. We had time to walk around the town, visit the museum, do some shopping, and have lunch before being bussed to the airport.

The tourist center and museum
Some commercial buildings and apartments
Snow mobiles parked for the short summer, ready to go in winter
Rows and rows of colorful houses
The church and school on the hill. No doubt guards would be watching to make sure polar bears did not wander close to the children

We were told that is was illegal to go outside the city without a rifle … this was for protection from polar bears who might wander too close. However, this seems to be one of those long lasting myths. From an article on Svalbard, there is no law asking you to carry a rifle in Svalbard. Not having anything to protect you against polar bears might, however, be a life-threatening mistake.”

We also learned that the government funds a university and many activities during the long winters – it is important to keep people upbeat during long periods of 24 hours of darkness. As you might imagine, depression can set in if people go for long periods with no social activities.

The downtown area … several restaurants and shops were busy with the tourists
A great overview of the area … photos By Hylgeriak / Wikipedia

This wraps up our journey to the Arctic. Such a wonderful trip and so many magical moments. Thanks for following along!!!

Gentle Giants of the Arctic

Walruses weigh from 1,300 to 3,300 lbs. and can be as long as 10.5 feet. They are social animals and often live in herds. The walrus is a carnivore, but they are generally not aggressive. Their only natural predators are polar bears and orca whales. Why are we talking about the walrus? On our last full day at sea, we had the good fortune to go visit a herd of walruses. This required taking a zodiac ride to shore where we had surprisingly close up views.

There were a bunch all huddled together making a racket on one patch of land – we were told to stay away from that area and concentrate on the ones in the water. The walruses were curious, and kept a close eye on us.

This walrus came very close to shore and to one of our photo leaders.
A reminder that we were in the midst of wild animals

Only a face a Mother could love, maybe …

This was a fun outing, but it was time to go back to the ship, and take in some more of the Arctic before returning to land for good.

Click HERE to read about our last day in the Arctic.

Never Too Much Bear …

Lou looked at the last Svalbard update and asked “what about that cool bear I got jumping across the ice?” Yes dear, coming right up!

This bear was too far away for me to capture with my camera, but Lou got some good shots with his super gigantic humongous lens.

This was, sadly, our last bear sighting for the trip. But how could we complain? We’d been fortunate to have a few days where we had a polar bear nearby – near enough we could even take photos from the comfort of our cabin porthole. Magic.

Stay tuned, we still have a couple of interesting days to come.

Click HERE for the next day in the Arctic

Svalbard – Bears, Bears, Just Bears

14 July 2008

We enjoyed this beautiful bear for over an hour. Lou got some nice shots of the bear enjoying the snow.

Images will enlarge if clicked.

Just a few days left before we head back home with polar bear memories to last a lifetime. Even though we only had interaction with the bears for a few of the days we were out in the ocean, it was enough to make us appreciate their special place in this strange-to-us environment.

Click HERE for more magic.

Svalbard – Continuing the Fun

13 & 14 July 2008

After a Wonderful day with our fluffy Polar Bear, we had a quiet day, but things soon got interesting again as we went into the next day.

We came across some landscape with only a little snow – it was strange after seeing only ice and snow covered mountains.

A teaser of what is to come …

Click HERE to see the rest of that bear …

The Svalbard We Have Been Waiting For

12 July 2008

Sunshine! No more cloudy gray skies today. A nice change. Lou was out on deck at 7am, and he captured a different ship in the morning sunlight. This is one of the bigger ships we’ve seen – probably holds about a hundred passengers.

And here is the other extreme, a very small ship. As an aside (coming back to present day) smaller ships seem to be all the rage these days. Back in 2008, Van Os Photo Safaris touted the 50 passenger Russian Ice Breaker as the best ship. Now they are using a 20 passenger boat.

Warping back to July 2008, we had another glimpse of a polar bear, just after seeing the two ships.

Today was to be our lucky day. Within 15 minutes, our ship was closer to the bear, and we were able to get some nice photographs. It was a beautiful, beautiful polar bear.

We watched this bear for over an hour before it was time to go to dinner … when we finished dinner, the bear was still hanging around.

It was now 10pm. I think Lou took a break and let me use his big lens for awhile. Those photos can be found in the Spitsbergen 2008 Blog.

Lou stepped out to grab some midnight photos – even though the sun never set, the light could be very beautiful in the early morning hours.

The magic of Svalbard … this is the day we’d hoped for when we signed up for this trip. The weather, the scenery, and our very own polar bear. It was extraordinary.

Click HERE to keep exploring the Arctic.