For more than 30 years, I have visited the far north of Europe on a yearly basis. Sometimes I even go several times a year. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland... Always looking for peace, space, and roughness.
It has been my wish for a long time to travel to Svalbard. As an avid lover of the north, this area can’t be missed.
Three years ago, my wish seemed about to come true. But as so many have experienced, the world was locked down by a wandering virus and the journey canceled. The year after that, unfortunately still no travel options.
But three times is a charm. On July 31 of this year, the time had finally come. At 4 in the afternoon, we were met at the quay of Longyearbyen by the friendly crew of Ortelius, who even brought our luggage to our cabins.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner on board, and after the briefing and safety instructions, the ropes were dropped. We were on our way: around Spitsbergen, in the realm of the polar bear and ice.
In preparation for this trip, I had watched dozens of videos on YouTube. I also watched the BBC documentary, Frozen Planet, more than once. So I had an idea of what to expect.
But what a journey! It far exceeded all my expectations. Every day we experienced one highlight after another. If you had told me before that we would see 13 polar bears, a blue whale, thousands of birds, Arctic foxes, and impressive glaciers, I might have given you a frown of incredulity.
But these wonders and more became a reality, thanks in part to the unremitting efforts of the crew and expedition leadership. They always had a plan. If the plan could not be carried out for whatever reason, such as dangerous weather or a polar bear near the landing site, there was always a plan B.
They did everything they could to give us the most out of this trip.
There are journeys and there are journeys. This trip is one that falls in the latter category. I look back on a fantastic experience, during which the awareness of human behavior on this vulnerable planet (and especially the Arctic) became very clear to me.
That awareness is sharper now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes. When that happens, you become an “ambassador for the Arctic,” as the captain said so beautifully during his farewell speech.