A Cruise in the Arctic

an production
by David S. Isenberg -- isen@isen.com -- 888-isen-com

Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons License

The pictures below were taken on a Lindblad Expeditions cruise
To the Land of the Ice Bears aboard MS Endeavour. We circumnavigated
the island of Spitzbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, July 20-27, 2001.

Click on these pictures to see larger versions of them.

We joined the cruise via a 2.5 hour charter flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen.
Longyearbyen is a frontier town of 1500 people. Everybody carries big guns to
protect themselves from the polar bears. This is a real threat.
The polar bears here eat people, usually tourists without guns, regularly.

Longyearbyen is 700 miles from the North Pole. Here's a
view of the central business district, the hotel and the university.
(No -- really!)

The museum in Longyearbyen is surprisingly good for a town
of 1500 people. The winters are long. And dark.

My friend Joe Weed collects banjos and mandolins.
I was thinking of buying this for him, but it was a museum
piece and they wanted too much for it.

There's coal mining machinery in the middle of town. John Longyear founded
the Arctic Coal Company in Longyearbyen in 1906. zzzzzz . . .

Lewis and Harvie arriving in Longyearbyen to join the cruise.

Our first night out, we got an introduction to the sedimentary
geology of Svalbard. As in coal. As in tropical swamps. The whole archipelago
has been cruising towards the arctic itself for a few hundred million years.

This was the first glacier we saw. Oooh! Quick! Take a picture.

The test of great leadership: we hardly knew they were there, and we discovered everything ourselves!
Here's (L to R) Chief Mate Goran Persson, George Woodwell (founder of the Woods Hole Research Center)
and the eloquently understated Captain Leif Skog.

This fellow was on watch mornings when I visited the bridge. I am sorry that I do not remember his name.
We shared several quiet early mornings together. One morning we saw a Glaucous Gull
attack, kill and eat a little Guillemot chick right under the port bow. It took three seconds.
I had never seen bird-on-bird predation before. I couldn't believe my eyes, but he saw it too.

Almost every day we'd have some kind of expedition ashore.

Olle (pronounced ooo-lay (approx)) Carlsson, one of ten naturalists aboard, explains that the
presence of brick means there used to be tryworks here for rendering whale or walrus blubber.

On our first expedition ashore, we met four reindeer, including this one . . .

. . . whose curiosity overcame its fear of the unknown.
Without many people, reindeer don't learn to fear them.

Shipboard videographer Kelvin Hughes got the whole thing on tape.

Speaking of dears, here's my seafaring wife Paula.

One of these weapons will not stop a polar bear.

Everybody gathered in the lounge for Evening Recap, including Barbara . . .

. . . and senior shipmate Marjorie.

I was not the only one taking pictures.

After recap, Lewis, Harvie and I showed digital pix on our PCs to an appreciative audience.

Later that night, our second night out, we went out to the
Continental Shelf where we found two finback whales at about 11:00 PM.

If you print these, you can see the Prints of Whales
whenever you want. Right Camilla?

We're dressed to go ashore on Day 2. Maybe a bit overdressed for July 22 . . .

The Endeavour from our shore landing.

You can tell it is summer in the Arctic because the ice begins to melt . . .

. . . and the trees get leaves. I think these are Arctic Willows, real trees that are
hundreds of years old, but just an inch or two tall. They're the only trees here,
and we're in the southwest, the warmest place in the archipelago.


I don't know how to spell saxifrage, and anyhow this is an Arctic Poppy.

Carol slides down a snow chute.

Offspring of vicious Glaucous Gull -- see the third chick?

Joe, 15, was the youngest shipmate. As you can see, he had a miserable time.

Geologist-photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins rocked and clicked.

Ralph's lessons were multilayered, but coherent veins traveled through them.

That afternoon we went out in a zodiac with Olle and got a close look at this bearded seal.

Icebergs erode at the waterline (and below), which makes them unstable.
Two things you don't want: 1) a polar bear eating you and 2) an iceberg rolling over on you.

Olle said, "There's a picture." I just pointed and shot.

Face of the glace.

Pieces of the glacier were calving, or threatening to calve.

With the Midnight sun low in the North, we rounded Kapp Lyell
as we left Bellsund at the end of Day 2.

We left the last influences of the Gulf Stream at the southern tip
of Spitzbergen, heading towards the ice packs on the eastern side.
The eastern islands have names like Edgeoya and Kong Karls Land.
Nobody lives there. They're nature reserves--completely off-limits.

Looking north into the midnight sun. Once we rounded Sorkappoya, things began to get interesting!

The ice pack had wonderful pastel colors. We began to see
seals, which are polar bear food, and pretty soon . . .

This bear looked depressed. One of the psychologists aboard diagnosed bipolar disorder - a bipolar bear.
Another suspected ambiguous sexual orientation. It was a bi-bi-polar bear.

Here's another bear. The answer is, "Not necessarily in the woods."

Kittiwakes don't either.

Then we came upon a sleeping ice bear, a young male . . .

. . . who got up to investigate the people-smells.

He came closer . . .

. . . and closer . . .

. . . and closer.

"Hey, throw down your weak and injured."

Then, when he figured we were clueless about how evolution actually happened . . .

. . . he slowly wandered off . . .

. . . jumping from floe to floe . . .

. . . until all that remained were big, big footprints.

You could see the impact of our close encounter with this bear on the faces of the staff.
Naturalist Stefan Lundgren looked like he had seen the face of God.

Naturalist Larry Hobbs had a silly grin plastered all over his face.

Brent Houston was just slightly more contained.

Olle looked like he had fathered the bear himself.

An ivory gull appeared.

The bird of peace wasn't no steenkin' dove -- it was an ivory gull.

That night, the fog came in. We crept towards Kong Karls Land
over oily-calm seas at three knots. Here, the fog is lifting.

George and Marjorie kept watch.

The naturalists aboard Endeavour call the Polar Bear "the newest marine mammal".
It only diverged from brown bears about 30,000 years ago, and it is still cross-fertile.

We steamed along beside this bear at three knots for almost an hour.

Everybody was psyched to see more bears.

Nancy kept watch.

So did Penny.

I wish I had a longer lens.

Oh well, maybe PhotoShop will make up for part of it (note: this is the full-sized version)

Cute, but too pixelly (note: full-sized version)

Maybe people won't notice how grainy it is if I do it in black and white. (note: full-sized version)

Here's the bear minimum -- times three. (note: full-sized version)

I'm sure that Tony got much nicer pictures than I did.

With all the polar bears, we did not get off the ship for two days.
Finally they let us off at Valhalla Glacier, so called because you
needed the patience of a god to climb its never-ending face.

We had fun anyway.

The glaciers up around 80N were even bigger than the ones down south at 78.

When I got home, I pulled out some Glacier Bay (Alaska) pix for comparison
and had a Crocodile Dundee moment -- "You call *that* a glacier? *This* is a glacier."

Beth went kayaking. Kayakers were warned to stay away from the glacier.
It was a warm day and the glacier was calving with thundering sounds.

We got through the Hinlopen Strait and back to the warmer west side of Svalbard.

On one trip ashore this Arctic Fox came down from
the mountain to eye us. Arctic Foxes make their living from scavanging
behind polar bears. It probably thought of us as odd-smelling bears.

Little Auks or Dovekies nested in the cliffs.

Darryl and Janet at the final Evening Recap.

On my last zodiac ride with Stefan I saw this ice rainbow . . .

. . . and found this image.

Back on the streets of Longyearbyen,
Paula got a snapshot of a couple of old Arctic sourdoughs.
One of them had a pot-belly after an unrestrained week of great food.

Some rights reserved under a Creative Commons License
is hereby granted to use this work for any non-commercial purpose,

but if you're going to make money with any part of this work, even indirectly,
please get my written permission before you do so.