For a long time, this wild, mysterious, dangerous yet endangered region was on my bucket list. It took until this summer, that I finally had the chance to visit it.
The plan was to make a ship-based photo trip along the north western part of Svalbard, together with a group of other photographers. We stayed 10 days on Tallship Antigua. The trip has been organized by my friend Peter Cox together with Daniel Bergmann. NozoMojo took over the lead of the expedition.
The Antigua is equipped with two Zodiacs, and we usually did two or three tours or landings per day.
Click on the map on the right to get an impression of our route.
We started in Longyearbyen, the main settlement and administrative centre of Svalbard. The town has roughly 2.200 inhabitants, which is about 85% of all people living on Svalbard.
From there we first sailed north east to Nordenskjöldbreen ("breen" means "glacier"), where we sighted the first polar bears. A mother with a cub of this year was resting on a rocky island in front of the glacier.
After a short stop at Skansbukta we left Isfjorden and sailed towards Ny London. It is an abandoned marble mining site - one of the many places on Svalbard where people tried their luck, and failed. Today only two houses and a bit of equipment can be found there.
During the next days we slowly sailed even further north along the coast, with several stops, like Tinayrebukta or Magdalenenfjorden, until we finally reached the famous Monacobreen.
On our way back we first stopped at a gorgeous little bay called Hamiltonbukta. It is not only a very scenic area, but also greeted us with snow in the morning. A perfect opportunity for the first snowball fight of the summer. But of course, the snow also made the whole scene even more spectacular.
After leaving Hamiltonbukta, we took some time to explore the area around Smeerenburg and Virgohamna. Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya ("Amsterdam Island") is a former dutch whaling station. The name literally means "blubber town". Today one can see only very few remains of the old ovens where once the blubber was boiled. We concentrated more on the landscape and the pack of walrus, that stayed there.
Virgohamna on Danskøya ("Danes Island") was named after SS Virgo, the vessel of the Swedish explorer Salomon August Andrée, who tried to reach the north pole with a hot air balloon. He built a hangar at Virgohamna, departed in July 1897 and never returned. It took 33 years until the remains of the expedition had been found.
After leaving Virgohamna we did a long trip towards Grimaldibukta, which is located on Prins Karls Forland. We arrived early in the morning and found the glaciers around bathed in beautiful and spectacular sunlight. We stayed most of the day on a little island in front of the shoreline until we finally set sail for a night trip towards Isfjorden.
On the next morning we landed at Alkhornet, hoping to see some Reindeer which usually hang out in that area. It was quite rainy and we only saw one, so we headed over to Sveabreen for the last Zodiac tour of this trip. Sveabreen is the only glacier on Svalbard, that is actually growing. All other more than 2600 glaciers are shrinking.
Although glacier calving is quite common at the glaciers on Svalbard and we saw several events, it is hard to take a photo of one. You just don't know in advance where and when something happens. But I was lucky to shoot one calving at Sveabreen.
Sveabreen was the last spot of the trip. From there we just crossed Isfjorden to get back to Longyearbyen.
All in all it was a truly amazing experience. Svalbard is a place like no other I have witnessed before. The light, the tranquility and silence of the nature, the curiosity of the wildlife get under your skin and capture your heart. I was deeply touched by this landscape and I do hope that these images may reflect my feelings.