July 22nd - 1st August 2009
As we left port under a fabulous blue sky our intimate group were all on the flying bridge - the light was FANTASTIC!, was this an omen for the next 10days? as we set off in search of the mighty great white bear.
There he was on the shore, then on ice, we were in Zodiacs and less than 30m away, so so POWERFUL! Dimitri quoted "that's the closest I've ever been to a Polar Bear" - and it's only Day 1.
We continued East, through mist into the ice - EERIE!!
We saw bears by the dozen (29 in total), Walrus by the tonne, more bird species than you could imagine plus puffins, seals and reindeer.
But Svalbard is not just about wildlife. On shore we experienced energetic and contemplative walks, we saw an array of beautiful wild flowers that we couldn't believe would grow in an Arctic wilderness. We visited historic sites, had a barbecue on the bow, took a polar plunge and basked in the midnight sun. We toasted passing 80deg North.
We ventured further North than the Shokalskiy had ever been before, deep into fast ice at 80deg31min North.
On our final evening we gathered to gloat over a collage of images, taken by Paul but representative of the many thousand that were taken by each of us and as Requiem faded I'm sure I was not alone in shedding a tear.
It was suggested that we delete a high proportion of our digital memory as not to bore our friends back home, but I suspect like us no-one could have the heart to relinquish any images containing polar bears.
Although we were all moved by the obvious love of the place shown by the expedtion team and the utter professionalism of the Russian crew, it would be wrong to single out any individual member of the team, crew or fellow passengers all of whom contributed to a TRULY AWESOME EXPERIENCE NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN!!!!