Storfjord, Svalbard

Jun 02, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

There’s something very special about being surrounded by sea ice. Mainly it provides a clear sense of place, for one can only be a part of such a scene at very high latitudes, in very remote places. Today was one of those days. From very early on this morning, ice was our companion, beginning at about 2:30 a.m., the sound and sensation of ice against the hull of our stout vessel woke us from our bunks to begin a search for polar bears from the comfort of the bridge. The conditions were ideal—clear skies and almost no wind made for a stunning setting. Between 50 and 70 percent of the surface was packed with ice. Our vigil lasted well into the morning with no sign of bears, just old tracks. At about 9:30, our expedition leader made the call for us to set out in Zodiacs and explore more intimately this “fortress of solitude.” This proved to be a very rewarding outing. The temperature was a balmy four degrees Celsius, there was no wind, and everywhere one looked the magic of the Arctic was there. At 76˚48’ north, one couldn’t ask for a more enriching experience. But there was one more way to embrace this experience, the polar plunge! Out of about 140 guests on board, only 20 or so brave and bold souls opted for a full immersion in the Arctic. The remainder of the day was spent picking our way out of the relatively dense pack ice and taking in the splendor and beauty of the north.

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About the Author

Doug Gualtieri


Doug Gualtieri has worked as a Naturalist interpretive guide for over 20 years, beginning his career in Denali National Park and Preserve at a remote wilderness lodge leading hikes and giving lectures on the ecology and wildlife of that region. Later he began leading Lindblad Expeditions land extensions to Denali in 2002 and has worked with Lindblad in some form or another ever since. With a background in Biology and a lifelong passion for the natural world Doug moved to Talkeetna, Alaska in 1999 from his home state of Michigan, and never looked back.

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