Another week in the Arctic
When I am looking back the week in the Arctic region I can draw a couple of conclusions.
The first is that it must be the toughest region I have travelled through and now I have done it twice.
The second is that you really don’t know what to expect. You need to be flexible and adapt your plan when things change.
The third is to understand there will be perils at hand. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to be correctly equipped. It is much better to rent gear on Svalbard than to think your equipment will work. It is an extreme environment so listen to the pros.
The fourth is that you must understand that this is not your normal environment. Act accordingly, be sensible and ask instead of just do it even if it’s just a picture you want to take.
The fifth is that Svalbard is a very special place and it can be oh so cold.
Can anyone do snowmobile trip?
Lets say that you might be put off by what I just written and that I understand. It is certainly not a trip for everyone that you have to understand. There will be a lack of sleep as you are required to be up observing when the rest of the group sleeps. Polar bear watch we call it. You will be cold from time to time and there will moments when you ask yourself if you are insane or not.
But, it is surely worth it if you ask me. All this hardship of being out in the Arctic during a snowmobile expedition. Yes I hate them, but if you want to travel through the Arctic region of Svalbard then you need the snowmobile. Skies or dog sled could of course be an option, but you won’t travel far then. We did approximately 700 km during this year’s trip and we only visited two areas.
The memories, not just the pictures that you bring home is worth much. The food, even the dried one, taste so good out in the field. To witness the soft light during the night is spectacular and inspiring. April is the time when night turns to day, but the sun hasn’t come to high up during night. It is the perfect time for a snowmobile expedition even if the birds hasn’t arrived in numbers.
Tell me more about the expedition this year
Lets say it was tougher than 2017. I don’t think we had warmer temperatures than maybe minus 10 during the week. At the lowest it must have climbed down to around minus 25. I even had the pleasure of creating my own snowfall inside the tent due to bad air circulation. I didn’t listen fully to the guides advice so it was my own fault. Listen to the pro I would say.
The low temperatures wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I was prepared for the cold and even had chemical hand and foot warmers. I do think I should have brought another pair of thick socks, as I only brought three pair. It is better to switch often and let everything that is wet dry in the sun when possible.
As you probably might have understood we had lots of sun this year. The opposite compared to the Arctic expedition in 2017. A high pressure in April will bring you nice and sunny days, but also cold temperatures.
What did we see?
Well 2017 must have been a good year for the Arctic fox. I think we saw Arctic foxes everywhere, even on the East Coast. Last year we also saw them, but not in numbers like this time.
The usual birds could be found where we travelled and the Svalbard reindeer at some places.
We did find a young male Polar bear, sadly the only we found. It was a nice encounter that I will write more about later on.
We knew we travelled in areas with bears, but we couldn’t stop to try to locate them. New restrictions was imposed on motorized traffic in three areas the day before we left Longyearbyen. Those areas where of course the ones we had planned on visiting.
The Governor of Svalbard say the ban was due to an increase in motor traffic and that they needed to protect seals and polar bears in a vulnerable phase.
It did sounds like a good idea, but was it true?
Well I think to a degree. What you have to understand is that 2018 gave easy access to Polar bears for the day trippers from Longyearbyen. Easy access naturally means more people coming to look at them.
Some of these didn’t act like they should and that is the main reason why a ban was imposed. That was told to me in Longyearbyen and I think it is a plausible explanation. The ban was most probably imposed due to people not understanding what their action might result in. A dead Polar bear due to ignorant people.
I think it was a fair measure the Governor took, but I also think it could have been avoided. They took the easy route with a ban instead of stationing supervisors at the problem location. As far as I have been told the main problem was just one area, not several like the ban do imply.
They need to understand that one of the main reason people travel to Svalbard is the opportunity to see the Wanderer of the north. If they take away that possibility, with bans like this year, then it will impact Longyearbyen in the end. They need to rethink and preplan if favorable ice conditions appear in these fiords the coming years. They need to supervise people and educate them on-site so they grasp the seriousness of the situation at hand.
This is sadly a story I have heard many times over and over. Wild animals becoming habituated to humans and therefore need to be taken out of the equation. It is always the animals fault and their live that is put to and end. It is the easy solution that doesn’t cost to much.
Don’t miss the Photo Album from Svalbard 2018
Until next time have a look at my Photo Album from Svalbard 2018 and these lovely pictures from my week-long Arctic snowmobile expedition. I hope my words hasn’t put you off from going to Svalbard. It is so worth it and I am already planning on going back in 2020.