In June 2003 I went to Spitzbergen . North of the Arctic Circle. Here are my thoughts on the holiday and only a few of our pictures! 
 

 

Svalbard

 

 

Spitsbergen is the largest of a group of Norwegian Islands known as Svalbard between 74 and 81 degrees North and 10 and 35 degrees east. The weather and sea conditions can be quite varied from Strong winds in the open sea to fog, mist, and dazzling sunshine.

There are only three indigenous land mammals in Svalbard, the Arctic Fox, The Svalbard Reindeer and the Polar Bear. The bird life and Flora are surprisingly rich with about 52 species of birds and 500 different species of plants.

I became interested in Spitsbergen several years ago after seeing several documentaries of which The David Attenboroughs ‘Realm of the Ice Bear’ was the most memorable, So on hearing an Exploration Company Called Oceanwide Expeditions did sight seeing Cruises I was interested, and they also took divers WOW. The U.K. agent I phoned was ‘Arcturus Expeditions’ Kathleen Cartwright was very helpful answering my many questions and sent a very comprehensive literature pack, I was now sold.

 

The question soon arises ‘where are we going on holiday next year!!’ I answer casually ‘I quite fancy St Lucia, only to get the answer ‘ Ooh no not the Caribbean again!! Can’t we go somewhere cooler?’ ‘Leave it to me I Reply.

 

We left from Heathrow and arrived in Oslo for a over night stop, then up early and quick stop in Tromso then up to Longyearbyen (the Norwegian Administrative Centre). At the Airport we meet Rinie Van Meurs the Expedition Leader and Mike Murphy Polar Dive Master, Who took care of our luggage and we then had a few hours to look around Longyearbyen and do some last minute shopping.

 

Now on board the Professor Molchanov an Ice strengthened ship with a Russian Crew. We meet in the bar for a pre trip brief by Rinie to lay down the dos and don’ts of Polar Exploration. Polar flowers can take two years or more to build up enough energy to flower so don’t pick or tread on them, good Rubber boots are required to exit the Zodiacs and cross small streams. We bought the same as Sir Ranulph Finnes used to walk to the pole, from Skee Tex in Hullbridge Essex. And not to ever forget Polar Bears, Males reaching a length of 10’ and a weight of 500kg and can run at amazing speeds. All shore parties have armed escorts by law, but if you should have to shoot the highly protected Bear you will be buried in paperwork to explain your actions.

 

The next brief was for us Divers by Mike who laid out our max depth of 20m and only buddy diving. We took all our own gear but weights and Cylinders. Well practised in dry suit diving is a must, this is no place to learn as out in the ice flow we had to stick with the ice and had 65m below us.

 

Diving with a single steel dumpy 12L cylinder with a twin outlet, so using twin Reg Sets. I used Apex TX100’s, which functioned with no problem down to  -1 Degree’s Celsius.

 

Next came the lifeboat drill, which went very well.

All tired we depart to our basic but very comfortable cabins trying to block out the strong 24-hour sun from the porthole. No night dive on this trip.

 

7.00 call from Alwyn (the Purser) that Breakfast would be at 7.30. It was a beautiful sunny day with flat sea in the channel of Hornsund. 9.00 the zodiac’s are ready to take the shore groups with Rinie and Yves to walk to a Little Auk colony with many other birds and also Reindeer.

 

Mike with Francois took us divers for our shake down dive. A shallow shore dive with lots of different small Jellies, Nudibranchs and Swimming Snails with beautiful purple shells and white wings.

Back on board ship we spot a Polar Bear swimming in front of us, the Captain slowed the ship so as not to frighten the bear. We watch as the bear climbs out onto the beach, then as we enter the pack ice he walks out onto the ice then gradually further away until I lose sight of him.

 

The next day sees us out in the pack ice in the Zodiacs. We intend to dive under a large piece we have seen close to the ship, but we spot a huge Walrus. With the engines off we paddle closer, but he drops beneath the surface, only to surface right beside me look me straight in the eye then slowly swim away.

 

Back to our large Iceberg as it is very dangerous to dive with a Walrus, we roll over the side and down. The Vis is a bit milky with the fresh water mixing with the sea, but the ice sculptures underneath is fantastic with the sun shining through and a water temp of  -1deg C of which I never felt cold and none of the others complained of being cold.

 

The days fly by and on the Friday evening we have a BBQ on the back deck with all the crew and staff. Vodka, dancing and the like, till the small hours were enjoyed by us all.

 

And now the last day and time to reflect on all that we have seen.

The Shore excursions with Rinie and Yves were fantastic with lots to see at a relaxed rate. The Dive trips with Mike and Francois were exciting, safe and very informative with lots of new things to see.

Alwyn and his lovely wife Jenny looked after us from behind the bar with a constant flow of coffee and tea along with a good selection of drinks

 

The Captain was always pleased to see us on the bridge, which we could visit at anytime.

 

So three bears, several Walrus, Ring and Bearded Seals lots of birds I have never seen before, and lots of new undersea life along with the fantastic scenery makes for a trip I will never forget.

 

Trip organised by Arcturus Expeditions Ltd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He can't be seasick! Surely not!

Shore dive anyone?