Travel Journal 2016 Week 23: Arctic Dreaming

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In Svalbard bears outnumber people, lucky for me they know to stay on the other side of this sign!

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June 12, 2016: Polar Bear Warnings(?Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway)

The end of a trip is always bittersweet. After fourteen days together my trip on the Ocean Nova ended in Longyearbyen. Never one for goodbyes I waved and hugged a few special people then jumped on the bus. I was excited to see this town only 1311 km from the North Pole.

It is a sparse and beautiful landscape. Still full of melting snow the small town was cold, expensive and full of us tourists. Everywhere I turned were people from our boat. Polar Bears outnumber people here and everyone is advised not to leave the city limits without a firearm. So we were all confined to a small section of the main town. I had a lovely lunch with the onboard ornithologist before checking out the Common Eider Ducks and heading to my hotel for some well needed sleep.

June 11, 2016: Walruses and Reindeers

(?Isfjord, Svalbard, Norway)

Having achieved my goal of kayaking in both the Arctic and the Antarctic I decided to hike today. I wasn’t disappointed. This first landing we saw a pile of walruses along with one lolly gagging in the water.

At Alkahornet we scrambled up a bit of rock to see a giant cliff full of birds surrounded by gentle sloping flat greenery. Taking the medium hike I’d hoped to have a chance to take pictures.

Wandering about the island we took a moment to take in the awesomeness of the landscape. We could see islands across from us with snow covered peaks while we sat in a valley mixed with tundra and snow. As we sat some curious Svalbard Reindeers approached us. One came up to me and nuzzled my leg. I could see the breath curling away from his nose as I observed him with complete awe.

Afterwards our group headed up the moraine for a view of the nearby glacier. Our small group stood here all smiles. We hadn’t expected such an intense hike or such a rewarding view. It was the perfect end to our final excursion on the cruise. We followed the busy day with getting all cute for the Captain’s dinner.

June 10, 2016: Cabins and Firearms

(?Bellsound, Svalbard, Norway)
It was looking a bit rough outside so I scrapped the kayaking idea and jumped onto the zodiacs. Our first landing at Bellsund was a lovely hike around a small bay. The location was formerly a beluga hunting area and was scattered with old whale bones. Here we saw a young reindeer and an Arctic Fox. This was our first landing with the threat of Polar Bears and it was interesting keeping the designated firearm handler within close range.
Our second stop nearby Longyearbyen had an old trapper’s cabin. I went with the birding group in hopes of getting more time for pictures. I wasn’t disappointed and had a chance to see some of the most beautiful Arctic Terns. We stopped frequently and couldn’t wander because of the polar bears.

June 9, 2016: Land Ho! And Polar Bears

(?Burga, Svalbard, Norway)

After almost two days at sea we finally reached land. The mountains were sharp and icy. Though, apparently much less icy than it should have been. We took the opportunity in Hornsund to search for Polar Bears. We saw two Bears while having an outdoor BBQ. Eating on deck we were surrounded with breathtaking scenery. In addition to the Polar Bears we saw Terns, Kittiwakes, seals and a few stray puffins.

June 8, 2016: Day at Sea

(Tromso, Norway ? Svalbard, Norway)
A day at sea is a great chance to sleep in and have a lazy day. I spent most of the morning asleep to avoid any sea sickness, though I usually miss breakfast, I made it to some afternoon lectures.
Throughout the day there wasn’t much to do and I tried to read a bit or keep myself busy but found myself bored. I’m still recovering from the death of my Microsoft Surface and I’ve been forced to remember what we did before all these electronics.

June 7, 2016: Orinthology and Pizza

(?Tromso, Norway)
Arriving in Tromso I was reminded in about a week I would be landing here for a brief moment on my way back to civilization. For today I had a chance to run around and discover the city. At the same time I had the chance to get to know more about a new friend I’d made on board.
The group from the ship did a tour of the Arctic Cathedral and a ride up the Gondola. This gave us the opportunity to see the entirety of the city from the airport, ski jump, and bridge. We next visited the Polar Museum and saw many exhibits in Norwegian about the exploration of Norway and Svalbard.
As I hung about the museum I ran off with a friend from the ship and we decided to take on the city. A quick walk and we found we had seen the highlights, we thought we would get off the beaten path and go to Pepe’s Pizza. As we walked in a sign greeted us, both Americans, ‘Real American Pizza.’ We laughed and wondered what this meant. Apparently it meant bacon, hamburger and some kind of BBQ chicken.

June 6, 2016: Puffin-nado 

(?Lofoten Islands, Norway)

A slow day we spent most of hours cruising and listening to more lectures. The landscape of islands was stunning. The morning began with a paddle to an island dominated by puffins. We all gathered near to the shore and watched as tens of thousands of puffins flew around us. I even was ‘blessed’ by one.