The World’s Svalbard Expedition: Atop the World on The World

The Svalbard Expedition was well described by one of our Expedition Leaders as “epic in scale – exquisite in detail.” This huge area north of Norway proper and amazingly near to Greenland is vast and nearly completely untouched, with mountains, glaciers, pack ice, and wildlife that stun, amaze, and mesmerize. And of course, midnight sun.
We visited Bjørnøya, which translates to Bear Island, but there were no bears, just hundreds of thousands of birds. The first photo below is from our zodiac ride around the island’s towering cliffs with the nearly deafening cries of birds, including the Kittiwates, so named because that is their call and the Arctic Terns who go to Antarctica and back each year, flying about 1.5 million miles in a lifetime. We passed through this cathedral-shaped cave that is called the Pearl Gate.

Dozens of forays onto islands, past glaciers, through permafrost fields of squishy moss with unexpected, somehow brave tiny flowers, and moving through sea ice followed over the next 10 or so days. Most of the time, we were in the shelter of fjords, in lake-like waters, surrounded by ice-topped mountains, making for hikes and zodiac rides that were quite doable.
The photos tell a much better story than I ever could.

The golden glow of the endless sun as reindeer doggedly graze to gain weight that will sustain them through the long winter.


My favorite-ever arctic bird, the puffin – sort of the arctic equivalent of a toucan – they are such clunkers that they have to take literally a running start across the water to take flight.


One of the dozens of spectacular panoramas of mountains, skies, and glaciers in variations of blue, white, and brown.


The perfect polar bear: “charismatic and enigmatic” and well-fed in preparation for winter. We saw a number of them on the ice; including one so copacetic that he snoozed, oblivious to us, for the better part of two hours.


Looking like a toy, The World in the sea ice at 82 degrees north, as filmed by an onboard drone.

Svalbard is also known as Spitzbergen, translated literally, it is “Jagged Peaks” and it surely earns its name. This is a place that simply commands reverence, and we were delighted to pay our respects.

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