Sea captain in Svalbard – more a lifestyle than an ordinary job
Magnus Reteike has worked on our ship M/S Stockholm for over 10 years. He made his first trip to Svalbard in 2008 and has returned every summer since then. Read his exciting story about life as a sea captain in Svalbard!
This year you celebrate your 10th anniversary, how did you end up on M/S Stockholm?
-It's quite a long story, but I grew up in Donsö in Gothenburg's archipelago. Fourteen of the fifteen boys in my class wanted to go to sea. Either in shipping or within fishing, and I knew I wanted to fish. Throughout my upbringing, I took every chance I got to accompany trawlers, and when I finished ninth grade, I was eager to go, but my parents made me wait. After graduating high school I did two years of shipping education. The school housed at Packhuskajen, where there is now a casino, and aboard the ship “Barken Viking”. Also, the ice-strengthened vessel Origo, owned by Per Engwall (M/S Stockholm’s owner and captain) was used as a practice ship. Per made his first expedition cruise to Svalbard the summer between my first and second year at high school. That expedition was the talk of the town!
Sometime after graduating, a couple of friends and I bought our own trawler and spent ten years fishing in the North Sea and the Atlantic – from Iceland all the way to Morocco. In 2007, we sold it and I did not really know what to do next when a friend told me about the ship he was working on, M/S Stockholm. I quickly started working as a mechanic and later on as an engineer, navigating officer and finally captain on board.
So, working at sea has always been a dream of yours?
-Yes, it has more or less always been obvious because my interest has been with me ever since I was very small. My father and my grandfather worked at sea, and I have never had a land job. It was so easy to get a job at the time too. All ships where Swedish flagged and there were never any problems for sailors to be brought along.
What do you like most about your job? What makes you want to return to the wilderness of Svalbard every summer?
-The best part is meeting so many amazing people. Our guests are always very happy and grateful to experience Svalbard's magical nature and wildlife, and despite the fact that many of them have traveled around the world, they are still blown away. The guides are wonderfully talented, the crew as well and we’re practically family. I've done about 50 trips with PolarQuest but nobody has been like the other so I never get tired. The ship is our home, and for us it is more a way of life than a profession. This creates a real sense of commitment and teamwork which often comes in handy in Svalbard’s extreme conditions. We need solid knowledge and experience to maneuver a ship so far up north, but thanks to the fact that M/S Stockholm is so small, we can not only shelter in difficult-to-reach fjords if needed, but are also able to explore places that cannot be reached with a larger vessel.
What do you remember from your first trip to Svalbard?
- Like many others I was amazed by the magnificent nature and I quickly got interested in all the exciting history associated with Svalbard and the Arctic. The exploration trips and mining operations. I was also pleasantly surprised by the mild and beautiful weather. I had expected snowstorms and a gray landscape, but instead we were greeted by sunshine, blue skies and calm seas. There was a lack of snow, but very icy despite the fact that it was in the middle of the summer. And of course, I remember my first encounter with a polar bear! I will never forget it.
Do you have a favorite place in Svalbard?
- The whole northwestern corner is filled with great places offering lots of history and exciting wildlife. Raudfjorden, Holmiabukta, Smeerenburg and Virgohamna, just to mention a few. I also always enjoy reaching Sjuøarna and the Karl XII Island. They are so exposed and are difficult to approach due to tougher weather conditions. There are often many bears on those islands.
Which destinations are your favorites, besides Svalbard?
- The trips to Tromsø to experience the northern lights and killer whales are incredible. You get so close to the animals and when you have spent most of the summer in the midnight sunshine, a night sky feels extraordinary magical! And I also like the British Isles. They are beautiful and the atmosphere is very pleasant.
Below, please find a selection of images of M/S Stockholm from the season of 2017.