My second snow mobile expedition on Svalbard was very different to the first. Colder, harsher and sunny for almost the complete trip.
Back on Svalbard for my second expedition
I went back to Svalbard in April shortly after the midnight sun had appeared. This is for me the optimal time to visit Svalbard. It gives me the best light together with a good opportunity to meet the Polar bear on the sea ice.
The ice conditions
I had followed the sea ice conditions from the start of the year until I left for Svalbard. It did look promising as some fiords where covered with fast ice this year compared to last, but it didn’t look good north of Svalbard.
Normally there should be drift ice there, or even fast ice a good year. This year it was completely free of anything even resembling drift ice. That did trouble me even if it looked good in the areas I would visit. Usually there is a build-up of ice when the temperatures drop after New Year, but this year was different.
My guess is that the currents have brought more warm water from the Atlantic Ocean than normally. Just a slight increase in the sea temperature would have a significant impact in this fragile environment. That is why I think there is a lack of drift and fast ice north of Svalbard this year.
The impact of the ice conditions
This lack of ice will of course make it harder for the Polar bears to survive. During spring they have a short period when they actively hunt for Ringed seal pups. Spring should be their feasting season when they gorge and gain weight. If they miss the spring feasting season, then they will have a harder time surviving the warm summer month when they normally can’t find prey easily.
East coast here we come
The setup was the same as last season. To use snow mobiles to take us to the places we wanted to visit. Stay in tents and sleep during the cold morning and be awake in the afternoon when the light is better.
We had a pre-planned tour that went into the bin when Sysselmannen, the local police, decided to shutdown three of the places we wanted to visit. That meant we once again had to travel extensively, even farther than last year.
We started at the East Coast. It didn’t bring any Polar bears, but I must admit that I like that area. Sadly it is easy for day trippers and when they close the nearest fiords most went to the East Coast. The place is harsh, but so beautiful will all the icebergs in the sea ice. The blueness of the ice is breathtaking and to be able to look at it closely is wonderful.
Blue ice closeup
Over to the West Coast of Svalbard
It took us many hours to drive to Dicksonfiorden. We had to cross two of the places we had planned to visit and at one of them there were three Polar bears. A bugger that we couldn’t do anything, but that is life. The reason behind the shutdown is not completely clear to me, but I heard that it was decided in the best interest of the Polar bears. That sounds fair to me.
Dicksonfiorden did deliver like last year. We missed the big male, but had the pleasure to get to know a younger male. It seemed to follow in the older bears track and scavenged the left-overs.
If you look closely at some pictures you will probably understand that it was cold. We think it dropped as low as minus 25 at some point when the hair in the nostrils started to freeze.
I will probably try to arrange a trip in 2020 now that I understand whats at hand, but until then you can enjoy the photo album.