The Arctic: Two weeks sailing around Svalbard
This was another trip which I arranged with Oceanwide Expeditions through Audley travel. Once again, both companies offered a fantastic service and an amazing trip. It is impossible for me to compare this trip with Antarctica as both adventures were so different. However, being on the Noorderlicht ship with just eighteen other passengers did make this a very authentic and unique experience. I look forward to more sailing adventures ahead!
We had a suggested itinerary of what we may do whilst on our adventure but nothing was guaranteed as the weather played a big role in where we would be able to land and what we would be able to see. Nonetheless, on day one, we were privileged to see a polar bear sleeping on a snow-covered rock. Although it was far away, it was still amazing to see the creature in its natural environment.
On day two we had the thrill of another polar bear before breakfast had even beeen served. This one put on a great show as it mooched along the beach, went for a swim and then climbed out of the water before scaling a giant glacier. We then visited a walrus colony (and for the record, walruses absolutely stink!!!) and had a fantastic walk over the Arctic tundra where we saw blue whales from the clifftop. As we descended back towards the ship, we passed Arctic reindeer and Arctic tern birds. It was a frenzy of wildlife.
The rest of the trip played out in much the same way. Calm waters allowed us to land several times a day in the hope of seeing different wildlife. Curious seals approached us, we had a visit from the Sysselmannen (Arctic police), visited old whaling sites and the infamous Virgohamna Bay where Andrée and Wellman tried to build their airships in a (what would be failed) attempt to fly over the North Pole.
During the trip, Euro 2016 was going on and although we were cut off from all communication with the rest of the world, during the Germany and France game we found ourselves in the settlement of Ny Ålesund at 79 degrees north. This is now a famous scientific research base where lots of studies are carried out by various countries, including but not limited to, Korea, India and the UK. Of course, with all this research going on, the scientists needed a place to relax and that's when we found ourselves with beer in hand (at 79 degrees north) in the world's northernmost pub celebrating France's 2-0 victory over Germany.
Other highlights included seeing the old mining settlements, climbing onto a glacier, completing a polar plunge in ice-filled water, putting the sails up on our ship and admiring its beauty from a zodiac boat, getting a passport stamp from 79 degrees north, climbing to the top of the crow's nest, perching on the edge of a cliff to gaze at newly hatched chicks, meeting a retired trapper, crossing the 80 degree line of latitude, seeing the midnight sun, drinking whisky served over glacier ice and last but not least, bird spotting!
If you are considering a trip to the Arctic, Svalbard will not fail to disappoint. If you're looking for a small ship with a flexible itinerary then the Noorderlict is the vessel for you, it isn't luxurious but it does allow you to sail down fjords and visit islands that the larger boats are not able to reach. I really cannot say enough positive things about this whole experience so go and see for yourself!
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