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Come for the Adventure, Go Home as a Hero

by Daniel Fox Blogs

Bit of a busybody, are you? Lying around isn’t quite your thing? Ours either. That’s why we’ve put together a particular Arctic cruise we think is something really special.

Schip: m/v Ortelius

Regio's: Arctis

Bestemmingen: Spitsbergen

Highlights: Cleaning the shores

Come for the Adventure, Go Home as a Hero

Bit of a busybody, are you? Lying around isn’t quite your thing? Ours either. That’s why we’ve put together a particular Arctic cruise we think is something really special – an adventure combined with the chance to leave the Arctic a little better than how you found it – the expedition to clean the shores of Spitsbergen.

Where’s Spitsbergen and why are we cleaning it?

Spitsbergen is an island off the north coast of Norway. Boasting an international population of about 2750 (as of 2009), it was home to whaling ports in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Towards the end of the 1800s coal was found, and mines sprung up (or down, as the case may be) across the island. Remnants of these mines, including old gear, are considered historic artifacts and legally speaking it’s a bit of a no-no to grab any of it for souvenirs.

Like any part of the Polar and sub-Polar Regions, Spitsbergen has the chance to be a pristine wilderness. In fact, it’s pretty essential that the area stay as clean as possible, because once one link in the food chain suffers unbalance, it can take a very long time for it to recover in the harsh environment.  

And what a menagerie it is – Spitsbergen is the home stomping grounds of all sorts of creatures – Polar Bears, Arctic Foxes, different species of Whales, oodles of different types of birds, Reindeer, different kinds of Seals, and Walruses.

Unfortunately, some of Spitsbergen’s shoreline looks like this:

Clean up Svalbard, © Governor of Svalbard

And worse. Detritus gets washed up on shore and can wreck ugly havoc on the food chain. Birds, seals, deer, and possibly even polar bears can get tangled up in the nets and immobilized. 

Also, food can get pretty sparse in the tundra so some animals will attempt to eat anything, which means a polar bear might end up chowing down on some fairly toxic treats. 

Loving the Polar Regions like we do, you can see why Oceanwide Expeditions is pretty excited to have you come aboard this very special Arctic cruise. 

The polar bears will be grateful too (although they may possibly express that gratitude by nipping at your bum).

8 Days of Making a Difference

Just so we’re clear, we’re not just going to make you work without giving you something back in return. You’ll still have plenty of chances to explore the area, check out a historic site or two, and if the wildlife cooperates, lay eyes on Whales, Walruses, Foxes, Reindeer, Polar Bears, different varieties of birds, and Seals.

Being that you’re going to be on an adventure, no timetable is completely set in stone – diversions are routinely made to see some friendly whales or to backtrack from equally friendly polar bears.

That being said, the 8-day trip generally runs down like this:

  • Day 1 – Embark and depart from Longyearbyen
  • Day 2 - 1st day of cleaning activities
  • Day 3 and 4 - 2nd and 3rd day of cleaning activities
  • Day 5 - Northernmost point at Phippsøya
  • Day 6 - Along the pack ice
  • Day 7 - Prins Karls Forland near Fuglehuken
  • Day 8 - Arrival and disembarkation in Longyearbyen

For part of each day you’re in the cleaning crew, and then you switch off and take a guided tour for the rest of the day. You can get more detailed info on the day-by-day activities by visiting this page.

And here’s your post-adventure itinerary:

Rest of Your Life – Feel great. Brag to your friends. Be fascinating to attractive people. Lie about wrestling with a polar bear.

The Picking Process

So here’s what happens when you arrive on whatever beach you’re assigned – you’re usually split into 2 groups, one sent to each end of the beach, and you start working toward each other. A couple of lovely and talented staff are put on polar bear patrol, and the staff who stay with the boats keep a keen eye out as well. As you march along, picking up items, you sort them into one of three general categories – metal, chemical, and anything else (like nets). Each year bags and bags of the stuff are removed from the beaches, and every year new garbage keeps rolling on in. 

Driftwood and man-made items are usually left as they are since they’ll break down naturally and don’t represent an environmental threat. We also leave anything behind that looks like its historic or of cultural value. So you may come across rusty old harpoon heads, knives, or Jimma Hoffa’s body – they all get left where they lay. Once a bag is full it’s handed off to the Zodiac crew who buzz on out to the main ship where a cargo lift crane is used to lift it up to be deposited in dumpsters on the deck. Once a cruise is done the ship’s dumpsters will be unloaded back at port and the whole lot will be properly broken down and disposed with.

It’s Hero Time

We all coo over pictures of baby polar bears, smile at whale calves, long to see adult whales up close. Here’s your chance to not only experience all of those things, but to also help those creatures live the proper Polar life they were born to. You can get all sorts of more detailed information about this Arctic cruise from our dedicated page.

You want an adventure. You want to be a hero. Here’s your chance.


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