My first day as a Svalbard guide
So, I was finally up in Svalbard. I flew from a sunny 22-degree Gothenburg to minus 7 degrees and snowfall and almost began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. However, the coming week as a guide would give me experiences that made me forget about the summer in Sweden completely.
After leaving Longyearbyen and Isfjorden with the M/S Quest in the late afternoon and starting the journey towards the north-western tip of Spitsbergen, most people went to bed, but some of the guests decided to stay up until midnight to see their first midnight sun as we chugged northwards inside Prins Karls Forland.
The morning would offer an early Zodiac ride at the Virgo harbor where Andree took off with his hot air balloon. I woke up 45 minutes before the alarm and of course could not go back to sleep, an exciting day was waiting. And what a day it was! The ice was still in the strait between Danes Island and Amsterdam Island, and we had to come in from the north.
It was time to load the five rubber boats. First you must hoist the Zodiac down from the upper deck while sitting in it, that alone can be an exciting experience. Shortly after this we picked up the guests from the gangway, it was nine o'clock in the morning and the adventure could begin!
We traveled slowly between the ice floes, telling the guests about the history of Andree’s flight and the previous extensive whale hunting here. I had previously read a lot about the ballooning, and it felt dizzying to be in the middle of history - in the same place where Andreé started his journey.
Suddenly there was a splash next to us and a walrus stuck its head up just ten meters away. Splash, splash and there was another one. After a few more minutes we also saw some of these magnificent animals on an ice floe. They didn't seem to care much about our presence. Two and a half hours later the morning session was over and we returned to M/S Quest for lunch.
In the afternoon, we would chug along towards the pack ice in the north. M/S Quest spun around and pointed the bow straight to the North Pole. The captain barely had time to get any speed up before one of his crew called a halt. He stood with his binoculars and stared into the white landscape.
-Polar bear, he said, pointing to a small white mound about a kilometer away.
Polar bear, was it really true? There were lots of little white piles out there, so it was hard to tell the difference. We inched closer and closer. When we were 600 meters away, we all saw that he had been right. The bear had stood up and walked straight towards us and was now digging in the ground for something. We decided to lie still and see what it would do. Now we learned that if you want to see a polar bear you have to be patient, the bear dug and dug and rested and after maybe four hours we decided to move north again.
We only got two hours north then the pack ice was like a wall, and we went back to our digging white fluffy friend. Nothing new here, the polar bear was digging and sleeping. It was ten o'clock in the evening and everyone was a bit tired after this long but exciting day.
Not a bad first day at work, I thought. And little did I know that day number two would be even more exciting with our now very close friend digging and sleeping on the beach!
Since 1999, we have taken travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 50 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice.