Monthly Archives: July 2014

Polar Bear Photo taken by Brian Clasper Welcome to Spitsbergen Svalbard

Just arrived in Longyearbyen, capital of Spitsbergen, Norway deep in the Arctic and land of the Polar Bear. I’m here to join a Polar Bear expedition for 8 days aboard MS Expedition which embarks 30 July. It’s around midnight and it feels so strange to be experiencing the warmth of the sunshine! We’ve been traveling all day and I should feel exhorted but incredibly quite energized

Spitsbergen is easy to reach and this is usually on a flight via Tromso or Oslo. In 1925 Norway was granted sovereignty over Spitsbergen and with it the opportunity of calling the whole archipelago Svalbard which derives from a Viking name meaning cold edge. Spitsbergen is today’s name for the biggest island in the achipelago. Svalbard has a land surface of 61,022 sq km and is roughly the same size as Scotland.

As I’m here to enjoy seeing Polar Bear in its natural habitat here’s a few facts about the worlds biggest carnivore;

Svalbard is considered the best places in The Arctic to view Polar Bear

On Svalbard there are more Polar Bears than there are humans apparently

The best opportunities of viewing Polar Bears is on a vessel based small ship expedition around Svalbard

Polar Bears along with other Polar Animals are protected in Svalbard

Outside the inhabited settlements you have to expect a Polar Bear anywhere and at any time and they wonder freely.

If a bear comes in to a settlement or close by they are usually spotted and scared away but now and then they do stroll in and even in 2007 one was spotted near the road in the harbour. Last unfortunate human fatality was in 2011 and before that 15 years previously.

On and expedition or land based tour it’s recommended to take a guide who carries a gun at all times when outside the settlements. This is strictly precautionary and in most cases if a flare or gun goes off the bear will not be seen for dust but there are unfortunate occasions every year when for safety reasons bears have to be shot and killed.

If you are camping (Land based)on Svalbard you are advised to take every precaution possible; use trip wires around the camp, take sledge dogs the best form of alarm, do not camp close to the coast as bears like to walk along shorelines. Most of all a watch should be in place at all times.

Take a look at our wildlife expedition cruises to the arctic

 

doomed expedition to the north pole Who was the first man to reach the North Pole

So shrouded in mystery is the Arctic that even at the turn of the century the home of the Alaskan Inupiat and the Inuits of Greenland, was one of the last uncharted territories on Earth. Since 325BC, when Greek geographer Pytheas discovered the cusp of a frozen Northern sea, explorers have sought to tame the Arctic. Here are six who succeeded.

the franklin expedition The Search for Franklin

The fate of Sir John Franklin and his ships, whilst searching for the northwest passage in the middle of the 19th century has been an abiding mystery, and even obsession, in many Canadian and British maritime history circles. So, the news from the throne last year in the Governor-General’s speech, that an expedition to find the missing ships and finally reveal exactly what happened to the fated expedition, was not that surprising.

Port Lockroy in Antarctica Antarctica’s Penguin Post Office

I was really pleased to see that the BBC have included Port Lockroy in Antarctica as the subject of a programme in their natural world series (Thursday 24 July on BBC2). I haven’t been there yet; I was scheduled to call on my last trip, but it was right at the end of the season and the weather was so bad, with force11 winds, blizzard conditions and high seas, that it was impossible to get even close.