Trip Start Jun 29, 2008
58Trip End Nov 27, 2008
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For my expedition around Svalbard, I was on the Russian ship: Akademik Shokalskiy. It is an ice-strengthened ship which can take about 50-60 passengers. The captain and crew are Russian, while the hotel and expedition staff come from a variety of countries (on this occasion, Sweden, Canada, Britain, Argentina and America). I was the only Aussie on board.
The Arctic is a very different experience from the Antarctic. It definitely appeared colder, although temperature-wise, I don't think it was very different. The wild-life is harder to see - a lot of it is in the ocean, while animals on land aim to blend into their surroundings to avoid predators. Sometimes there is evidence of life in the form of tracks or droppings. The Arctic is a much starker, harsher beauty than the Antarctic. Prior to any zodiac landings, a check for polar bears must be made, and on-shore our guides must carry guns. A teenage girl was killed in 1995 by a polar bear when walking outside a settlement. It can be very hard to spot polar bears from a distance - a white blob amongst white ice and snow - not the easiest of tasks!
During our expedition, we had many highlights, including:
- Some fantastic bird viewing (even spotting the Ivory gull, the "crown jewels" of the birding world)
- Sightings of polar bears, reindeer, walrus, seals and whales
- Crossing 80 degrees North
- Ice!!! - sea ice which our ship pushed its way through, glaciers, ice-bergs.
- Walking on the glaciers
One of the beautiful things about a trip like this is complete separation from routine life. It can be really wonderful to sit quietly in these remote, harsh environments and just appreciate the wonderful location you are in, and how lucky you are to experience it. Now that I have visited both the Arctic and Antarctic, I am officially bipolar!! I recommend you all visit some time - but watch out, polar travel can be addictive.