MYSTIQUE THE ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO: SVALBARD

Remote, wild and primordial travel to Norwegian’s remote islands of Svalbard near the North Pole appeals to the curious adventurer.

                      by Deirdre Frost

As one of the few places in the High Arctic that retains a pristine, wild beauty, Svalbard at the northernmost tip of Europe may, perhaps, provide the curious adventurer with a sense of accomplishing something daunting, wild and on the edge.  

This Norwegian archipelago consists of remote, uninhabited islands, which presents a challenge to those wanting to discover some of nature’s secrets in these inaccessible Arctic areas.

Flowers Svalbard

Arctic flowers in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

 On the main island, Spitsbergen, visitors can stop at Longyearbyen where they can see reindeer roaming freely in the open space around the settlement. Nearby, there is dogsledding with huskies ready to run. Within a short distance, red-breasted geese are nesting around a pond and using the proximity of the huskies as protection against the arctic fox.  These unusual features are topped by the surprising fact that in Svalbard, there are more reindeer, polar bears, and snowmobiles than humans residing in this extreme environment.  

Ivory Gull

Ivory gull soars over the Arctic.

Out there in the wilderness, Arctic terns, seals, and walruses can be spotted in the fjords and plenty of glaciers can be found casting their spell with their soft, blue glow.  These native species are not the only reasons to experience the Arctic wilderness, but they rank high on the wish list of many a savvy traveler with walk about instincts, who keenly awaits adventure in the archipelago.  What’s exciting, as most world travelers are apt to agree, the intensity of the experience often encapsulates the imagination at a moment when least expecting it.  Now, it’s possible that Arctic wildlife can appear in a split second of a camera shot, so it would be valuable to prepare for spotting the least expected apparition and capture this brief, but significant moment.

Arctic Sea

Sea birds taking flight over Arctic sea near Svalbard

The idea is to keep options open since a frolicking walrus, seal or whale can suddenly appear without forewarning or pecking order.  Yet, visitors may take hundreds of photos and still want to take more to get a grasp of this surreal landscape that is shrouded in mystery and possibilities. They may find it is hard to believe that some of the superb landforms are over 600 million years old. The snowy, white caps on the black ragged peaks appear to be icing on the cake that blends splendidly next to the receding blue-hued glacier, looking daunting as if it had suddenly stopped flowing by the sheer force of nature.

As Yann Rashid, the local outdoor apparel designer, describes it, “Svalbard is a place of extremes that signals danger and remoteness.”  A Londoner by birth, Longyearbyen is now his home where he jets from Auckland, New Zealand to Svalbard to produce his own clothing line. His entrepreneurial enterprises are mixed with his outdoor pursuits as he launches his business while enjoying the rugged adventure as a guide in the archipelago.

Polar Caps Svalbard

Polar Caps Dominate Svalbard.

Local guides, like Yann, know the places to tour and experience the Arctic landscape. Turning to guides, they lead tours on expedition boats in summer and mountain ski, dogsled or snowmobile in winter. As guides, they are trained to be resourceful whether it is providing protection in the wilds, setting up base camp at the bottom of a mountain or knowing how to maintain warmth in a tent in winter. The focus is to enhance the adventure and create a pleasurable and deeply memorable opportunity to experience nature, especially seeing the beauty of Magdalenefjord and spotting walruses on Moffen Island at 80° North.

 

 MS_Nordstjernen


MS Nordstjernen

 In the months of the Midnight Sun, the MS Nordstjernen cruises the Arctic archipelago to take travelers on a fascinating adventure to the High Arctic. The classic Hurtigruten expedition vessel, the MS Nordstjernen, provides a perfect platform to view the stunning Arctic scenery and endangered wildlife.   During the height of the Midnight Sun in summer or the Northern Lights in winter, the Arctic come alive with cool, bright colors that enhance the natural surroundings.  Cruising the remote fjords and glaciers captures the essence of the Svalbard experience and all its stark beauty.

Travel to Norway’s Arctic Archipelago:

Norwegian flies to nearly 140 well-appointed destinations around the world.  Book flights, a hotel and a rental car.  www.Norwegian.com

Hurtigruten provides premier expedition voyages to polar regions, especially to Norway’s Arctic, Antarctica and more. www.hurtigruten.us  

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