When I got the call from National Geographic back in February that I had been chosen as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, it was quite a shock. I was congratulated on my selection and informed I would be exploring "the land of the ice bears." Wow, I thought, I am going to the Arctic! Then, "You will be on an expedition of Svalbard in June." After saying thank you repeatedly, crying uncontrollably and finally hanging up the phone, I looked at my laptop in front of me and promptly googled "Svalbard."
Svalbard is an archipelago that has been part of the Kingdom of Norway since 1925, and the islands are about halfway between continental Norway and the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean. Svalbard compares in size to the state of West Virginia or the country of Scotland. About 60% of Svalbard is covered in ice, but there are areas of low-lying and very well-adapted vegetation. In fact, I can expect to see some exotic Arctic flowers since it will be the summer season.
During my summer expedition, I can expect variable temperatures ranging from 30-50°F and a lot of daylight! Though some areas are untouched wildness, Svalbard has been used over the years by hunters, fishers, mining companies, and scientists and actually has the northernmost permanent settlements in the world.