Svalbard 18.03-26.03 2016
This is the trip report from our first winter expedition by ship to Svalbard. In fact this was the first tourist winter expedition to Svalbard ever done! For this adventure we chartered M/S Origo leaving Longyearbyen with 12 guests. The winter has been warm in the Arctic in January and February, but from mid March the cold temperature came, and we got great weather and light conditions. The trip was hosted by WildPhoto Travel guides Ole Jørgen and Martin.
Day 0 – 17.03.2016 As always we recommend our guests to arrive a day or two before the departure to make sure all the luggage arrive safely and also get some time to photograph around Longyearbyen. The light was great and we spent some time searching for wildlife and great landscape.
Day 1 – 18.03 2016 Leaving Longyearbyen in the evening, heading south to Belsund.
Day 2 – 19.03 2016 At sunrise we entered Belsund in great morning light and almost full moon. We found a lot of Polar bear tracks in the area, but no bears wanted to show up, only harp seals. in the afternoon we decided to head North for the ice.
Day 3 – 20.03 2016 During the night and morning we moved north toward the drifting ice. The temperature was -20 C and the fog was thick. It was not possible to search for wildlife, and also difficult to navigate, so we changed course heading for Moffen island. It is not allow to visit Moffen island in summer between 15.05-15.09, so very few people have visited this island at 80 degree North. The island is also disposed for big surfs which makes landings difficult. We entered our 2 zodiacs with all guests and guides wearing survival suits, and went on shore. A small group of 3 walruses were laying in the snow, and during our 5 hour stay on the island we got some really nice photo opportunities. Most likely we also made history, being the first people to land on Moffen island in March. Usually this island is surrounded by ice, but the warm winter in 2016 made this landing possible.
Day 4 – 21.03 2016 We spent the morning and day in Liefdefjorden. The fjord ice had finally started to build in this fjord, so we didn’t came as far in as we wanted. But it’s very important this time of the year to not break the fjord ice which is very important for the seals and Polar bears. We saw our first Polar bear for the trip on the ice, but the ice was too thin for the bear to walk closer to the ship.
Day 5 – 22.03 2016 We woke up in Raudfjord, on the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. The drifting ice was hidden in fog, so we rather explored the fjords like Fuglefjord, Smerenburgfjord and Magdalenedfjord. We had some nice meetings with seals and walruses, and the landscape and light was great.
Day 6 – 23.03 2016 During the night we sailed back toward Belsund for the second search for wildlife. On our way in we got a request from the Search And Rescue (SAR) team if they could do some training with our ship, and next 15 mimutes a chopper was hanging over our head. It’s always nice to see how good the SAR-team is if we one day need to be rescued. After this training it took us only a few minutes before we spotted a Polar bear on Akseløya. The bear was quite far away so we entered the zodiacs and did a zodiac excursion along the other side of the island. After more than an hour we were at the southern tip and could see the Polar bear again from a long distance. We decided to just wait and see if he wanted to come closer to us – not a bad decision. After an hour waiting the bear came closer and passed us on the ice in front of us. Then he sat down and just looked at us. What a nice experience!! The sunset was also one of the most stunning we have seen.
Day 7 – 24.03 2016 During the night we had moved south to Hornsund, and we woke up to another stunning sunrise. The light was even better 30 minutes before sunrise, and we were surrounded by great landscape in all directions. After breakfast we moved toward the smaller fjords, and saw fresh Polar bear tracks, but no bears. We also had a group of walruses with a nursing cub, which was a nice experience on the western coast of Spitsbergen. The evening light was stuning on our way out of Hornsund.
Day 8 – 25.03 2016 Last full day we explored the northern fjords in Isfjorden. We were greeted by another great sunrise and hundreds of Northern Fulmars on our way in Isfjorden. We found one fjord with good ice and many seals, and some walruses were also found on ice floes in the area. In the evening we headed back to Longyearbyen to finish the expedition.
Day 9 – 26.03 2016 It’s not always a good idea to take the first flight back from Svalbard after disembarking the ship in the morning. Most of the group spent some hours around Longyearbyen photographing in the cold and great winter light. In the last rays of the sun M/S Origo headed out with the next WildPhoto group for another adventure…
Let us know if you want to travel with us on a similar photo expedition to Svalbard. See more info about the winter photo expeditions HERE