The Arctic Bug
In August, Roxana Cremer, a PhD Student in Atmospheric Science at Stockholm University, travelled with us on board M/S Quest. Once back on Stockholm’s busy streets in front of an empty page, thinking about what she actually would like to tell about her trip to the Arctic this last summer, she wrote this text for our blog. Please read it below!
The words that most sum up my feelings and experiences are by Birgit Lutz, a German polar adventurer (freely translated from her book: Eine Frau erobert die Arktis):
Who only sees the cold dessert in the Arctic Ice, to whom this world will never open up.
It is so true, who only thinks about the cold, the polar bears and the ice will miss a lot up in the far North of our planet. But when you get bitten by the Arctic bug you see the most beautiful nature you can ever imagen and this far distant place will become a second home for you.
When I went to Svalbard this year in the early morning of August a new Arctic world just opened up for me; before Svalbard was a place to work, doing research, but never for holidays. On first sight, everything was weird. All the mountains, I only knew in white, were in a brownish colour. The feeling vanished quickly during our visit to Barentsburg the first evening, this Russian coal mining town with its special character, I fell in love again with this other face of the Arctic: A darker one, colour wise, but the beauty was just as astonishing as in its white winter dress.
Our first morning was spend in rainy weather at Recherchefjord with a Zodiac lesson, a little cruising along the glacier front and later that day we landed at Bamsebu. The old whaling town is already gone and just left behind hills of bones and a trapper hut. This winter, two women are staying there recording data for science and reaching out globally from a very special place of to classrooms to communicate climate. The whole project is called Hearts in the ice.
Normally wake up time was around 8 am with a great breakfast, but sometimes it could happen that you got a call a little Earlier. That one morning it was 5 am, message: Whale! More precisely Bowhead whale. I jumped out of the bed, grabbed my cloth pulled them on, grabbed my camera, got in my shoes and ran upstairs and outside. That sounds like it is done in a minute, and sure it was Arctic summer but standing on deck is still cold and windy. The putting your cloth on quickly in the Arctic takes a little longer then normally, you got at least two layers under your jacket and then you look and move more like a barrel than someone who wants to run upstairs for whale watching and the whole time you hope to be quick enough. I was and so I saw my first whale in an Arctic sunrise.
The excitement for that day was far from over, I went back to bed for another hour of sleep and after the breakfast we went for a walk at Kap Lee with walruses, kittiwakes and reindeers. After lunch we headed out in the Zodiacs because of a polar bear spotting. It was the third bear on our trip but the first one we came really close to. He was sitting at the beach looking at us. After some time, he left the beach to continue his travel. We headed to the other side of the fjord because there was another polar bear sighting: a mother with two cubs. Cubs isn’t really painting the right picture; teenagers fit a little better. It was their last summer with their mother and they just had a feast. At the beach was a massive walrus cadaver, on top of the cliff the three bears took a little after lunch nap. Down on the beach the walrus left-overs were eaten by some foxes and one gull. I cannot remember how much time we spent there going back and forth to see the bears and the foxes. At one point one of the teenager bears came down the cliff, scared away the foxes and checked out the food again, only to climb up a few minutes later. The commitment to slide down the cliff was such a clumsy and cute move and you could really see how well fed they were from the walrus they had shared. Back on top of the cliff the mother bear slowly begun to make its way and the three left to the inland.
I will leave it here, dreaming back to my vacation while going through a few more of my photos and leaving you with another quote from the book:
In moments like this one lays the answer.
Text & photos: Roxana Cremer
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 51 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.