I woke up in an ice world deep blue, glassy seas scattered with drifting, white pack ice and the reflection of clouds. The wind had died down and the sunlight was intense, so I was able to walk to the bridge with only one layer on. I scanned the floes below; many of them were dotted with polar bear tracks. Where were the bears that left these paths across the snow?
98% of Svalbard is wilderness, making it one of the world's last great wild places, and 65% of it is completely protected. Conservation of wildlife and habitat has allowed the Arctic animals of Svalbard to thrive in recent years. However, Svalbard's ecosystems are still vulnerable to more long-range threats like global climate change, radioactivity and other pollutants, and resource depletion and mismanagement in the Barents Sea. Carl Erik's talk was not only concerned with the history but also with future of this region he loves so much.
The photos below represent two different survival strategies of the seals that naturalist Michael Nolan shared with me.
Ellen and I marveled at the ice cap and discussed its significance. She mentioned that Austfonna made her feel insignificant yet at the same time powerful enough to impact, either positively or negatively, this epic ice cap. It moved her to tears. During our time viewing Austfonna, the three of us had the honor of being photographed by famed National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg. It was fun having our portraits taken by such a legend, but let me tell you, her lens is pretty intimidating! She gets close to her subjects, focal length and otherwise.
The high Arctic is a place of relatively simple beauty.
Of breakthroughs and reflection.
Read the Lindblad Naturalist Daily Expedition Report (DER) here.