„There’s no point bleating about the future of pandas, polar bears and tigers when we’re not addressing the one single factor putting more pressure on the eco system than any other – namely the ever-increasing population.“
What do you do when you get stuck in a nice and cozy cottage on the North Cape in the middle of winter with access to Google Maps? While snowstorms are shaking the window blinds and getting outside would be outright hazardous? You start asking yourself… is that northernmost enough? The answer is surprisingly simple. No, it isn’t. There is still some place to visit that is even further north. Svalbard.
Even better, the travel company (WildPhoto Travel) that helped us get to South Georgia has their headquarter on Svalbard and is offering expeditions there as well. We made our reservation and really anticipated the trip… what could go wrong now? Turned out, a lot.
It all started like one of our other adventures. Do flight and hotel reservations and start to think about what equipment we would need. As this is a summertime adventure, there was no need to bring the serious clothing, we planned for roughly freezing point and harsh weather conditions, but nothing out of the ordinary. We had some new cameras on order already and I decided to invest a little more to get one of those „big white“ lenses. The main subject obviously was polar bears and we thought that we would need some telephoto lenses because the bears would be in a fair distance. I’m not entirely sure if this can still be attributed to the disruptions of the supply chains or that our current brand is just completely incompetent in regards to fulfilling orders, but as of the time of writing this travelogue, the 600mm still hasn’t arrived, over 8 months after placing the order. At least the cameras made it and this was quite beneficial, as theoretically they should be really good with auto-focus acquisition. Small, rocky zodiac boats are not exactly favoring slow lenses and meager auto-focus. But only one lens not arriving in time wasn’t any major concern as we had some other options and our other preparations went smoothly.
This is, until a few weeks before of departure. I needed to go on a business trip to the US and although I enjoyed doing it, I got Covid as well and even though I had all vaccinations, it hit me quite hard. Nothing life threatening, but I was out for some days. When I was more or less fully recovered, we got really bad news from the travel company, the icebreaker had hit a stone that damaged both hull and a fuel tank and needed to be brought back to mainland Norway for repairs. They did their best to keep us up to date and we received mails from them every day, but for quite some time nobody knew if repairs would finish in time. But still this wasn’t all there was. One week before of departure, SAS pilots went on strike and all their flights to Svalbard were in danger of being cancelled. Oh boy. Obviously this would affect all other passengers on this trip as well, so everybody desperately tried to come up with a plan B. Turned out that the ship being under repairs in Norway was a stroke of luck, because it could pick us up and we could travel with it to Svalbard. Three additional days of open sea and not really calm and nice ones, the Norwegian Seas are known for being quite unpleasant, especially for those of us that get seasick fast. Like me. Well, feeling sick for some days or not seeing polar bears in the wild – that was a very easy decision, we just stocked some more seasickness pills.
So we booked additional flights from Oslo to Tromsø with another carrier and changed our hotel reservation on Svalbard. Instead of being there for a few days before of the ship cruise, we moved it to the time after, luckily we had enough buffer and weren’t planning tight. In theory we hoped for SAS cancelling the leg from Oslo to Svalbard because of the strike, as in such a case the remaining legs of our ticket would remain valid and we could keep the flight back. For emergency we still booked a second flight back home and made it a flex ticket so that we could get some money back in case the strike ended. On the day of departure, chaos struck again and SAS announced that the flights to Svalbard would be considered a necessary exception from the strike and our flights would actually take place! Still for us, there was no way back, as there was no availability of hotel rooms any more. Suddenly we had the risk of being considered no-shows, meaning that all flights after that leg on the ticket would get cancelled as well. So just a few hours before departure, I spent an hour with the airline hotline to resolve this and to take out the one leg from Oslo to Svalbard. Unsurprisingly, when all seemed ok, the telephone line got disrupted and I had to start all over with somebody else. Just as the icing on the cake, we had one of the worst travel jams because of an accident on the autobahn to the airport with a taxi driver desperately trying to find a different route. It felt quite good to arrive in the airport lounge, although there were still some uncertainties left over, we had to book hotel rooms in Tromsø last minute because the ship could only pick us up the next morning.
But we knew, once we would arrive in Tromsø, all would be well, because then all challenges would be considered somebody else’s problem. There was another nice side effect, we would get to see Tromsø again. In Summer! So we booked a room and made some dinner reservations in the restaurant that we always go for when we are in town.
Flying from Oslo to Tromsø was completely uneventful, apart from the fantastic view it offered to the mountains that were barely showing any snow at all. It really felt like we would visit a completely different place.
After arrival, we took the opportunity to get up the mountain on the opposite side of Tromsø and were rewarded with a fantastic view. But nothing could compare to the sight of the MS Virgo arriving quayside the next morning.
The trip over the Norwegian Seas turned out to be exactly what I expected. After traveling along the coast, we entered the open sea and my stomach was convincing me to go lie down a little. Every once in a while I heard some excitement about dolphins, whales and other interesting creatures but I preferred the horizontal orientation. You have to know your own limits. Funnily while we were still traveling along the coast, several people tried to tell me that it is all in my mind and that if I would expect to get seasick, it would happen. Well, I just thought to myself that I know my body better than they do and was smiling a little after I learned that exactly those people felt quite sick as well.
I felt a little better already when we got closer to Svalbard, but seeing the island appear on the horizon was still a big relief. No need to mention that my girlfriend was tough as ever and did not feel seasick at all.
We traveled to Longyearbyen and picked up the remaining passengers. They had to board using the Zodiacs and watching this, I started to think about our heavy luggage. And we weren’t even the ones with the most stuff brought along.
Still we set sail further north immediately and the guides started watching out for wildlife. After all the struggles, the expedition could finally start. Pretty soon the guides spotted a mother polar bear with a cub out on the beach and we tried to get our first pictures of polar bears in the wild. Wildlife photography is always a challenge in finding a good distance to your subjects, for exactly this purpose we had two Zodiacs on board that could get us closer. With 6 passengers per boat plus one guide it was ample of space for everybody, but obviously there is zero comfort on those rubber boats and just keeping your subjects in view if not even in focus is tricky.
With the rubber boats, we got into a small lagoon that was close to the location where we spotted the bears and we were hoping for them to reappear. In the meantime, there were several curious seals that took a look at us. I never really felt quite sure if we are the observers or the wildlife is observing us.
After some time, the mother bear really reappeared and even started to play with her offspring in the snow. It was hilarious to watch her turning some somersaults on the ground with the small cub watching her. Still we could not close the distance to her and even though the pictures shown here are slightly cropped, it still felt like we could not really make a check mark on the polar bear subject.
Once we arrived on the northern part of Svalbard, the guides and the captain decided to do an excursion away from the island and all the way up to the ice cap. It felt like a thrill just to think about having a chance to see this remote place and I was quite excited, even though the chance of finding polar bears is slim as there is a lot of area and only a few bears. They decide if you are going to see them, based on how curious they are.
Once we arrived at the edge of the ice, we started to feel how precious this moment was. The ice was slowly rocking up and down with the waves, the water was quite calm.
82 degrees north. Likely the closest I will get to the north pole, although there is cruise ships that can bring you all the way. But the comfort of the cruise ship and the simple approach of just „having been there“ is not what drives us to those places.
It is the feeling to get real close to nature and experience it without too many layers of protection. The MS Virgo was a perfect balance and just right for what we wanted. It was small enough so that you don’t have a lot of other passengers and big enough for providing sufficient security.
Best part of this organization still was the world class photographers that were our guides. Both of them belong to the absolute top and I felt honored by having them available to us. Not just because they kept a keen eye on the horizon, but also because they willingly shared stories and experiences with us and gave a loot of good advice on how to get the best shot in the brief moments that nature offered us to take a picture. Like this whale that took a good look at us.
No polar bears around and the organization decided to stop the engines for a night in hope for some bears to come visit us. Once everything went quiet around you, it felt like the experience of being there was manifold, especially because some fog crept in as well.
So far away from civilization, you become thankful for the ship that gets you there. The MS Virgo was a Swedish buoy-laying vessel build in 1976 with a gross tonnage of 551 and was completely refurbished in 2021.
She handled the polar ice we encountered with ease and slowly made a way through the ice.
The next morning, there still were no polar bears, but some nice sunshine and I was quite happy about the privilege to having had the opportunity of visiting this place.
We headed back to Svalbard, circling around Nordaustlandet and had a good look at the massive ice caps Austfonna, Sørfonna and Vestfonna. Austfonna is Europe’s third-largest glacier by area and volume and is covering an area of 7.800 square kilometers (roughly 3000 square miles, so a little larger than Delaware). Even though we have seen a lot of large glaciers during our travels, this one is really impressive, especially because from sea, the view to the glacier is mostly unobstructed.
And then we were suddenly significantly distracted from the ice cap. Polar bears!
The Zodiacs were quickly brought into water and we raced closer to the coast. Admittedly, I was already a little worried about the chance to see those animals from within a range that would allow some good shots to be taken. It was already several days into the voyage, so some nervousness crept in. This day, it was blown away for good and I started firing in high speed continuous shooting mode, on this day alone I got over 6000 shots of polar bears. With the boat rocking and the bears walking around a lot, a large number of the pictures turned out to be out of focus, so I ended up with a lot of blurry polar bear butts. But the rest? Oh, yes…
The first bear we spotted walked up and down the coast in search of a bird’s nest to steal some eggs from or to do whatever those large polar bears do all day long. Sometimes it felt like it was purposely posing for great pictures, so we named it our „photobear“.
It really did not take a lot of interest in us and every once in a while even entered the water. That is the time when those apex predators are actually a little defenseless and it was quite obvious that it did not consider us a threat, because it was happily swimming a little even with the two Zodiacs relatively close.
Time completely lost meaning, I actually have no idea how long we took pictures of the bear (and I refuse to destroy the magic of the moment by looking at the EXIF data of the first and the last picture we shot of the bear). It must have been hours and although my back gave me some signals that the position I was in was not entirely compatible with the geometry of my bones, I did not care.
The next bear we found was a large alpha male. It was huge and the other bears kept a respectful distance, one even scampering away when it got a signal from the alpha that it was too close.
But this bear turned out to be a master of disguise. After happily rolling around on the ground for some time…
…it turned into a brown bear!
So is this is the secret way brown bears are being made? Is it all just polar bears infiltrating southern areas from their secret base at the north pole? We will never know for sure.
The next polar bear was a lot younger than the previous one. According to our guides, a roughly 2 year old male.
It was very curious. Instead of just ignoring us like the other bears, it took a lot of interest in us, especially when we came closer carefully. At least we hoped it was just curious and not too hungry. Without any doubt, they will not consider you a threat. You are food to them.
Happy bear is happy. It really looked like it enjoyed our presence.
It even obviously thought about getting into the water to get closer to us. At this point in time, it was probably just 6 or 7 meters away from us (roughly 20 to 22 feet). Considering they can jump for around 4.5 meters (15 feet), it felt very close. I was confident that our guide knew perfectly well how to handle the danger, but still it was just a ridiculously small distance away.
I dropped the camera every once in a while to have a look at the magnificent animal without a lens in between. I have never been this close to such a large predator out in the wild with just some water in between us. The situation felt surreal and the pictures still stir up a lot of emotions when I take a look at them. One of the best moments in my life.
Back at the ship we all had to take a deep breath. Plus bring out the laptops to make copies of the memory cards. Still the trip was not over and more pictures waited to be taken.
At least the birds were already waiting for us.
When we continued circling this part of Svalbard, the weather became a little more foggy, but every once in a while, the mists opened to reveal the edge of the glacier running from one end of the horizon to the other.
A drone wasn’t in my equipment this time, but thinking about the possibilities, one might be in my pack the next time. This is an expensive hobby.
Back to the birds. I am not a good bird photographer. If somebody would ask me about the birds I have seen one this trip, I might say I saw a bird. And another bird. Plus a bird. Apart from some important species (to me), I also cannot tell them apart. We had a number of birders among the passengers and when the guides told us we will visit a bird cliff, they became quite excited. If I would have known what came up next, I would have been excited as well.
The bird cliffs turned out to be like coming from the Lord of the Rings movie sets. Massive structures reaching up high into the mists with tens of thousands of birds all around us. We got the recommendation this time to use the life saving equipment instead of our own clothing and soon we realized why. The birds living on those cliffs have their hunting grounds directly in front of them and the abundance of food meant that they also produce quite a lot of, well, bird poo.
Still gracious flyers and even their colleagues watched them with great interest. On the other hand, there is not much else to look at than other bids. Just the one bird in the back gave us some attention.
We got the recommendation from the guides to only select a small area to observe and take pictures, otherwise the scenery would become very overwhelming. Obviously the birds I was focusing on were having a business meeting and discussing things that birds discuss on such occasions. Not that I have any idea what subject that would be.
Every single spot on those rocks was covered with birds.
And a lot more of them were out in the waters.
It was actually fairly difficult to take pictures of them, as very suddenly, they can go for a dive to catch fish.
While we were traveling up and down the cliff line, we suddenly found another polar bear. It stood around a little unsteady as if it was very exhausted and the guides were worried because it might have been ill. But the reason for the bears strange behavior became apparent fast when we started to notice the carcass right next to it.
It really was just completely oversaturated, it’s belly was obviously filled with a lot of tasty meat from its catch. It did not even have enough energy left over to scare off the seagull that clearly wanted some of the good stuff as well.
After swaying left and right unsteadily, the bear actually fell asleep standing. A hilarious sight.
The next trip with the Zodiacs brought us to a place with a record number of six bears in the same spot. There was a dead walrus carcass on the beach, so that must have attracted all those animals. Again, we were able to get real close to the animals.
For the time being, the picture of us being in the Zodiac close to the beach will not be revealed here. Norway is working on some new regulations and we were asked not to feed the efforts of those that want to establish a safety distance of several hundreds of meters.
Have we disturbed the polar bears? Certainly not, rarely have we seen such relaxed animals. That does not mean that there might be people that do not take such a precautious approach and as so often, a few misbehaving idiots will spoil it for the ones that try to respect nature. I just have the feeling that the rules will only make life difficult for the people that stick to rules, the idiots will likely ignore them anyway.
Every once in a while they watched up and took a look at each other. Right in front of a marvelous background. A photographers great dream.
The weather and landscape decided to give us a backdrop that was well worth to be shown without the necessary bokeh.
This was the perfect setup for the „one“ picture of this trip, especially once we found this group of a mother cuddling with its two cubs.
This is it. The picture I consider the best I took from this expedition. Especially because as in every group picture, one
person bear always has their eyes closed.
Although that have been the last polar bears of *this* trip, there was still an abundance of subjects for our photography. Actually, there was one more polar bear that we found in an unexpected place, I will come to it later.
I would not have been able to tell that this is actually a blue whale, although it was obviously huge. Which is not really a surprise as this species is the largest on the planet. There is not many of them around any more, so a sight is rare.
Even without all those animals, the landscape was beautiful. Completely blue skies are boring for photographers anyway, so the weather conditions were fantastic.
Every once in a while, some sunlight got through the clouds. Which could happen at any given time throughout the day, there was no sunset any more and the sun always remained close to the horizon.
Again, another distraction from the scenery was provided by some beard seals.
Those animals also took some interest in us, but the way it look at us felt like it’s world was mainly upside down for whatever reason.
MS Virgo in front of a glacier. Don’t be mistaken, there is quite a lot of distance still to the glacier, the front wall of it would dwarf the ship.
Now to something exceptional (or so I was told)… the IVORY SEAGULL! I cannot stress this enough, the birders in our group were quite insisting that this was a spectacular sighting. I confess, I don’t feel the thrill that much. Eventually I’m just a philistine, but I like some other birds much better even though neither the wagtail nor the arctic tern are as rare as this bird.
Point in favor to this sighting, the blue ice in the background made for some spectacular pictures.
It was fun watching the birds, they obviously disliked getting their graceful behinds into the cold water (even worse, there were several common seagulls swimming down below), so they were trying to find some precious spots on the icebergs to land. Another ivory seagull on the spot already? Let the fight begin and for all the grace those birds emit, they have been quite mean pecking and pinching at their siblings.
The Zodiacs kept a respectful distance to the glaciers. In this picture, the walls of ice look small, but this is easily 40 to 50 meters (130 to 160 feet) and the side of the glacier is well over 500 meters (1600 feet) away from us.
So we unpacked the telephoto lenses and started observing what happened. It was a lot more action that I thought, every once in a while large or small parts of the ice broke free and fell into the water, making some impressive splashes.
The seabirds immediately went close to those calvings. Although it looks like the birds like some entertainment as well, we learned that the ice was stirring up a lot of shellfish from the bottom of the waters and that meant meal served for the birds.
Some of those calvings reminded us why the safety distance is really quite necessary. The waves coming after the splash were rather harmless, but the massive blocks of ice shooting through the air were incredibly dangerous. Smaller, basketball sized parts flew for quite a distance and there were some larger pieces as well, one of them would have easily killed you. When you look closer into the picture below, you can see several that come close to the size of the Zodiac and you definitely don’t want to get hit by one of them.
Here is my arctic favorite bird, the Arctic Tern. It is quite a traveler, migrating from the Artic where it has its breeding grounds all the way down to the Antarctic for the southern summer. Considering it does the round trip once a year and thus flies roughly 70’000 km (44’000 miles) annually, this is mind blowing, especially considering it is only a rather medium sized bird. My girlfriend and me are having endless debates on the proper german name for the bird, I’m quite convinced that it must be named „Küstenseeschwalbenmöve“ officially. Because reasons.
Even among Arctic Terns, appropriate naming is debated fiercely. Those two are not talking to each other any more because of this disagreement.
After all those birdies, it was time again for some down to earth fellows. We saw several walrus already before, sometimes coming close to the Zodiacs obviously being quite curious. Now it was time to visit them on land, where they huddle together in groups and spend a lot of time sleeping, likely dreaming of fish.
The first group was in an area often visited by other ships as well and you could tell the animals were more easily disturbed by our presence. They calmed down fast again, but I’m quite sure that many tourists will try to get close to satisfy this strange need to have their face covering most of the beautiful scenery in their pictures whilst standing next to the actual subject. I will probably never understand those selfies, isn’t it great just to portrait the animal and the surrounding landscape?
I can accept some combination of civilization and wildlife every once in a while, though.
Some of the wildlife was more elusive, though. Can you spot the little bird that is taking a walk along this beach? Because of this bird, technically this is not a landscape picture, although I must confess, this was one of my favorite spots during this trip. It felt raw and wild.
True, the bird was hard to spot. Luckily it came a lot closer as well.
Right next to the bird (and its colleagues, there were a few of them), we had some seals as well, including this one that mastered the skill of lying on top of the water.
Another display of completely relaxed animals.
Then we found jellyfish. A lot of jellyfish, most of the bay had them. The guides have never seen them before, so they were a little mystery. I used my action cam to capture some underwater footage, but because I really did not train to do so, those pictures will need some more post processing.
Duck. Please don’t ask me what kind of duck, I have no idea. And I don’t care, the duck was happy taking a little walk and so was I.
This might be the place where fox and duck bid each other a good night. Technically the german proverb is claiming this incident is to happen in between a fox and a hare, but I’m not picky.
Landscape. Sunlight. Beautiful.
More of that.
It wasn’t exactly easy to capture the spirit of this moment. Neither sunrise nor sunset, just clouds, water and those mountains. It felt right to be there and witness the beauty of this and trying to capture some of it so it becomes more than a fleeting instant.
Especially because I could share this with my significant other that was mesmerized of the situation as well.
Back to the walrus. From a distance, the group snuggling looked extremely inviting and like a pleasant place to take a nap as well. Then I started to think about where those tusks are going. Ouch.
This walrus looked like it is in need of some service people that inflates it again. Although it looked a little strange, it was well alive.
When we left this group, something quite nice occurred. We were in the Zodiacs heading back to the MS Virgo and I took a last look to the animals, then raised my hand and waved good bye. Our guide was watching this and laughed, then looked back at the animals as well. To his amazement, one of the walrus was lifting a flipper and waved back. He look back to me quite surprised and I shrugged my shoulders, stating that if you are kind to animals, you get given back so much more. He wholeheartedly agreed.
The sun generally was scarce, so on this rare occasion, it felt good to feel a little sunlight and the warmth it shared.
Next, we were challenged. Not by seasickness or natural disaster, but with operating our cameras. True, the seabirds were small little maniacs that loved to take a dive just a moment before you press the release button, but now it was time to learn what really differentiates a birder from a normal photographer.
Birds in flight. With heavy lenses and fast birds. Puffins are quite good in flying evasive maneuvers, so getting a good shot was really difficult and required practice that I did not have. Even after those several hours we spend on this spot, I really did not get more pictures than this one. Although I actually quite like it. The other photographers were much more successful and when we gave each other a look at what we captured back on the ship, I was quite impressed by what they captured. Not sure I will invest the necessary effort, I still feel like a philistine around birds.
So I was thankful for the birds that remained still for some time so that I could get a nice picture as well.
Another money shot. I tried to remember some of the lessons that our head guide shared and because he really is one of the best wildlife photographers on the planet, I made this one in a style that I would attribute to him. At the end of the trip, we had an evening all together in the lounge, each sharing a few of their pictures and talking about those shots. I selected this one to share with the group and mentioned that I tried to capture it in a similar way like I think our guide would have done. Funnily, when it was time for the guide to show his selection, he actually shared exactly the same shot, just with the small difference that in his picture, the seal was looking a little into the camera. Great fun.
One of the great and fierce predators on Svalbard. True, compared to the polar bears, this is certainly a smaller predator, but the seagulls have been quite nervous because of its presence. Rightly so, the polar fox will try to steal eggs from their nests.
Very few times, we saw the Svalbard reindeer as well. It was the last animal on our list of photography subjects we wanted to capture and we were glad to have had the opportunity.
Those two have been a little strange though. For no apparent reason, they suddenly got frightened and jumpy. Usually I would not consider reindeer to be very skittish and those two calmed down fast after that incident. No idea what startled them.
Another glacier, another calving? Not quite. This fjord contained a huge glacier and also displayed some sad evidence how much they suffer because of global warming. The huge grooves are displaying time like tree rings, showing how much the glaciers decline every year.
A floating block of marble, yes?
The last group of animals we visited before we headed to Longyearbyen. It was time to leave and we all knew it. Still nice of nature to give us a rare glimpse of the arctic unicorn.
Everybody contributed to the whiteboard so that we would get some statistics about our expedition. Thirteen polar bears, three arctic foxes, several whales, walrus, seals and reindeer. Plus a list of what I would have likely abbreviated to „many birds“. You can find the entry that I added there as well. No, not the arctic tern, somebody beat me to it – my entry is the one above it.
Back in civilization. This is Longyearbyen. Originally, we wanted to spend a few days here waiting for the departure of our ship, but as mentioned above, the plan had to change (a lot). So instead of cancelling our stay, we just moved it to the end and enjoyed the suite that we booked in our hotel, giving a fantastic view to the fjord.
Longyearbyen was fantastic. It offered nice people, wasn’t all too large and the selection of shops in the shopping street was very much oriented towards wilderness travel plus some very nice restaurants. We bought some clothes and equipment for our next trips. The advantage here was that the offerings are very much suitable for this environment and much less fashion oriented than the stuff most outdoor stores have on display back home. So I bought warm underwear. And a plush polar bear that now lives on the sofa in my workroom, right within display when I do some video meeting. A true polar bear from the arctic.
Still Longyearbyen has a rich and interesting history, mainly connected to the coal that is being mined in this place. Most countries have abandoned their mines now, still the island has some interesting rules about raising a business, although governed from Norway.
We booked some sightseeing tours and enjoyed the many stories. We got a first glimpse of the airport as well, hoping for less trouble once we would head back to Switzerland.
Well, yes. This is the most photographed sign in all of Svalbard. Kind of a must-have shot. Still a great reminder of where you are, beyond that sign it is forbidden to be without protection against polar bears. Meaning guns.
The next sign I liked a lot more. „Better Moments“, exactly what I hoped to find in this remote place and exactly what I got.
This road actually was used as a film location for a murder mystery while we were there. Just when we were heading back, they closed the road for public travel and shot some footage about a „high speed chase“. I was itching to kick the driver out of the car and provide some „high speed“ myself, there was certainly a lot of movie magic involved as the car was idling along rather slow. In other places, blocking one of the major roads might have resulted in a large traffic jam, but other than us, only one more car arrived at the scenery and had to wait. Not much, but then, there is only about 42 kilometers (26 miles) of road in Longyearbyen anyway.
Still you can actually rent a car and there is a gas station as well. Obviously the world’s most northern fuel station. And gas was quite cheap!
Traffic signalization had to include other forms of transport as well.
An educational sight, bot interesting and another reminder of climate change. For whatever reason, the permafrost ground broke up here and revealed the layers of ice beneath the soil. I was never aware that permafrost is actually a sediment cap over ice sheets and that some of the ice can be as clear as the one we found here. Without a doubt, our civilization is in trouble and the upcoming years will demonstrate the effects of humankind’s population growing out of proportion.
I might not be around any more when push comes to shove and I have trouble with making appropriate decisions when considering the influence of my own behavior on the ecosystem. Scientists will have to look into this and hopefully find ways to better live along with nature and not cause so much harm. I don’t believe in the noise generated by incompetent politicians and extremist environmentalists that love to finger point at others uttering ideology driven nonsense without realizing that change always needs to start with yourself and then collectively as a global community. I believe in the quiet and hard working people that are really trying to find applicable solutions and for this reason, the global seed vault was one of the places on Svalbard that was on my „must-visit“ list.
The one reassuring thought I have is that nature will always find a way, with or without humankind. I also believe in the ingenuity of many and that future generations will solve the challenges presented to them, just as previous generations all had to find ways forward as well.
At the end, I want to share this picture of the last polar bear we saw on our trip. Sitting at the hotel bar enjoying a hot cocoa after a hard day out in the wilderness posing for some visitors so that they can share some nice pictures back home. Another expedition, another adventure. Not our last hopefully, by the time of writing this travelogue, we already reserved spots on an expedition traveling from Svalbard to Iceland along the Greenland coastline. Back to the polar bears!