Svalbard in the Arctic

While most people were seeking the sun in the summer, we headed north in July to seek out some special wildlife in the archipelago known as Svalbard.  We flew into Longyearbyen, the small capital town of Spitzbergen where the streets are littered with ski-doos waiting for the long winter months when the fjords are frozen and the ice and snow bring them back into their own.  Longyearbyen is an interesting place.  The small airport is situated at the head of the fjord with mountains all around and, if you are very lucky as we were, you might see a pod of the small white whale, the Beluga, swimming along the shore.  It was about 5c in Longyearbyen, feeling a bit colder in a wind, but still very comfortable for walking around.  For the wildlife enthusiast, the first bird you are likely to see is the Snow Bunting, very common in town and on the outskirts.  Talking of outskirts, walking is restricted to the town limits unless you are armed to protect yourself against a polar bear attack.  Only the foolhardy would transgress this regulation.  Nevertheless, in our couple of days wandering within the town limits, we saw various waders, an Arctic Skua on the nest, Barnacle Geese, Eider Ducks, Little Auks, Reindeer and Arctic Terns in attack mode.  The Terns nest very close to the road in places and the town provides long red sticks to hold above your head to ward off angry parents.

Our mode of transport while in Svalbard was MS Expedition, a converted Scandinavian ferry now owned by G Adventures.  Refurbished in 2009, it proved to be a very comfortable ship for the 120 passengers or so.  During the next 10 days we circumnavigated the islands and had an amazing experience.  Just being out in Arctic waters was almost suitable reward but close encounters with inquisitive polar bears, sly arctic foxes, lazy walruses and hungry whales, proved to be the cream on the cake.  I’ll be uploading a small sample of my latest collection over the next few days…

UPDATE:  Apologies for not having uploaded many of my pictures.  I was reprimanded by my friend Aiden from the Svalbard trip who has been checking my site.  I have loads of excuses, (none of which would hold up in court) so today, before I go away again, I’m going to try and get some more up…

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