Now that I am home from my trip to the Arctic, I have had time to add some photos to the text only posts that I was able to make whilst I was away. It was quite challenging to keep my news up to date when I could only send text messages through the ship’s email system. All my posts now have photos of the sights and events of my trip.
It seemed to take me forever to get home. Our ship returned to Longyearbyen early on the Monday morning and then I had to wait seven hours before I could get access to my hotel room. It wasn’t until 2.30pm on the following day that my flight left for Oslo and then I had another overnight stay and a wait until 11.00 am on Wednesday before catching my flight back to Melbourne. That, of course, took over 22 hours.
As I look back on my trip, I was delighted to have had a few initial days in Iceland. It’s terrible for the Icelanders that their economy and currency has collapsed in this economic crisis, but for me it made this visit affordable. The scenery and thermal regions of this country are simply stunning. I have made a resolution to get back there one day and see some more.
In terms of Spitsbergen and the Svalbard Archipelago, the beauty of this area and its pristine wilderness are incredible. Some parts reminded me of my trip to Antarctica, but it is very different. I guess that the three things that make it different are:
- Hunting – people from Europe were hunting whales and polar bears back as far as the 15th century. Later, in the 1700’s and 1800’s whale oil, and related products, were as important to the world as petroleum is today. Visiting some of the sites where people lived in very austere conditions to catch and process whales was an incredible piece of history.
- Exploration – this area was a base for early polar exploration – not only by sea, but also by air. I hadn’t realised that Amundsen (the first man to reach the south pole) had died on an expedition that originated from Spitsbergen.
- Polar Bears – these are the largest carnivores on earth. They are not at all cuddly, but are instead ferocious animals that hunt by stealth. It is essential that in this area, one doesn’t go anywhere without the protection of a loaded firearm. It is hard to describe, but while it was quite uncomfortable being being out in the open water in a zodiac when it is snowing heavily and the wind chill factor has taken the temperature down to well below freezing, it is incredibly exciting to be watching a polar bear walk along the shore of a rocky outcrop at a distance of 80 metres. The bear is completely at home in its natural environment, and we had the privilege of looking in on its life for a few minutes. I am fortunate to have seen a total of 18 bears whilst on this trip.
I wonder what my next adventure will be?