September 27, 2009
Review of Arctic Cruise
In the summer of 2009 I went on a cruise with National Geographic to the Arctic region of Svalbard. It was an amazing experience that I would highly recommend. The trip is run by Lindblad and National Geographic. It starts in Oslo, Norway and centers around the island of Svalbard. The images from this trip mark the start of a new series I’m working on centering around endangered and threatened species in their native habitats. Check back for more images to come from this new project…
Details of the trip after the jump!
Here is the link the trip’s website
Here is a copy of the itinerary that we followed:
Depart on an overnight flight to Oslo. Upon arrival, check into our hotel. On an afternoon tour of this charming city, stroll among the famed Vigeland sculptures—hundreds of life-size human figures set in parklands. Visit the polar ship Fram museum, dedicated to one of the first wooden vessels to navigate the Arctic Sea. This evening is free to explore Oslo on your own.
Continental Hotel (B)
Depart Oslo on a private charter flight, and enjoy breathtaking vistas en route to Longyearbyen. Embark the National Geographic Explorer, your base for the next six days.
This voyage is undertaken in the spirit of discovery, and our travel in the archipelago is exploratory by design. In a region ruled not by humans but by polar bears, we let nature guide our course. Svalbard lies north of the Arctic Circle, where the summer midnight sun never sets. With our fully stabilized ice-class expedition ship, we are able to probe the ice in search of wildlife, and our exact day-to-day itinerary will remain flexible, depending on local ice and weather conditions. Zodiacs and kayaks take us closer to experience the geology, wildlife, and wildflowers that teem during the summer months.
With our National Geographic expert and a seasoned naturalist staff, venture to the foot of stunning tidewater glaciers, kayak among sparkling icebergs, and explore fjords that split the rugged coastlines. Hike through miniature gardens blooming on the tundra; and search the edge of the pack ice for polar bears, walruses, seals, reindeer, and arctic foxes. Nowhere can the polar bear be seen more reliably in its natural environment than here.
In Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in Svalbard, disembark and enjoy time to explore. Founded by an American coal executive in 1906, this is one of the northernmost human settlements on Earth. Fly back to Oslo this afternoon.
Radisson SAS Airport Hotel (B,L)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the return flight home.
NG charters a private plane to take the group from Oslo to Longyearbyen, the largest town on Svalbard. The town isn’t really much of anything to see, there are some cool old coal mines that you can see up in the mountains, but we didn’t have time to go check them out so we were really just ushered to and from a few museums with arctic artifacts. I- being of the MTV generation, with an attention span of a 4-year-old got bored and decided to wander around the town a little on my own. I couldn’t go too far though because this is polar bear country and you never know when one is just around the bend. We were told that they very rarely venture down into the town and when they do its usually in winter when they’re starving and desperate, so I was pretty safe, but you always have to be on the lookout. I wandered around and had a nice time looking at the interesting plants and very colorful row houses in the town. The one thing I wish we could have done, but would be impossible in such a large group, is visiting the sled dog kennel. I stood outside of it and watched the dogs for a bit, but I would have loved to tour it! I toured a sled dog kennel in Alaska and it was an awesome experience that I would highly recommend to any fellow animal lovers.
We boarded the ship that afternoon, and from there the trip follows no plan or pattern because the course is dependent on both weather conditions and where animals are spotted. If you are seriously thinking about taking this trip I warn you- just plan on getting little to no sleep for the full 11 days. This is the land of the midnight sun- it is light out 24/7, and while the rooms do get relatively dark there is always something exciting to see at all hours of the day and night. Most of our polar bear sightings happened from 1am-7am. If your anything like me, polar bear sightings are the main goal of your trip, and while they’re not guaranteed, the staff works their butts off to find you one. The week we went was extremely foggy and therefore it was hard to spot them in the distance, we saw 5 total- whereas the cruise the week before us saw 26 because there was no fog, it is really luck of the draw. Other cool animals you will most likely see are walruses, arctic foxes, reindeer, bearded seals, hooded seals and maybe a whale or two. One species I can guarantee you will see- BIRDS! I promise you will see thousands upon thousands of birds! We saw glaucous gulls, kittiwakes, arctic terns, puffins, and thick-billed murres, just to name a few. We saw them swarm at Monacobreen Glacier and at the bird cliffs of the Hanging Gardens and Cape Fanshawe. A little tip (they will most likely tell you anyway) when you are nearby the bird cliffs, cup your hands to your ears and hear the sound of the birds instantly amplify- it is a moving experience.
At the end of each review in this blog I will include a section of tips and tricks which will be a small list of things I recommend or wish I had known, I will also include what photo gear I brought with me.
Tips and Tricks
For those of you who are amateurs or just beginning their professional career, there are great places to rent whatever equipment you don’t have.
I have rented with very positive experiences from
Adorama Rentals (NYC)
Samy’s Camera Rentals (NYC)
Borrow Lenses.com (By Mail)
(Borrow lenses is where I rented both the Nikon D3 and the Nikon 500mm lens for this trip.)
If you are a student, most places offer discounts so always ask! Also if you are a student a great insurance provider that supports these rentals is CSI, which offers you up to $25,000 in camera gear protection with only a $25 deductible!
I hope this was helpful, please feel free to leave comments with any additional questions you may have! Below you will find a slideshow with more images from the trip.