Storfjord, Svalbard

Jun 02, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

There’s something very special about being surrounded by sea ice. Mainly it provides a clear sense of place, for one can only be a part of such a scene at very high latitudes, in very remote places. Today was one of those days. From very early on this morning, ice was our companion, beginning at about 2:30 a.m., the sound and sensation of ice against the hull of our stout vessel woke us from our bunks to begin a search for polar bears from the comfort of the bridge. The conditions were ideal—clear skies and almost no wind made for a stunning setting. Between 50 and 70 percent of the surface was packed with ice. Our vigil lasted well into the morning with no sign of bears, just old tracks. At about 9:30, our expedition leader made the call for us to set out in Zodiacs and explore more intimately this “fortress of solitude.” This proved to be a very rewarding outing. The temperature was a balmy four degrees Celsius, there was no wind, and everywhere one looked the magic of the Arctic was there. At 76˚48’ north, one couldn’t ask for a more enriching experience. But there was one more way to embrace this experience, the polar plunge! Out of about 140 guests on board, only 20 or so brave and bold souls opted for a full immersion in the Arctic. The remainder of the day was spent picking our way out of the relatively dense pack ice and taking in the splendor and beauty of the north.

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About the Author

Doug Gualtieri


Doug’s passion for the natural world started at an early age in his home state of Michigan. He received two biology degrees from Central Michigan University, and later went on to get a master’s degree in conservation biology. His education led him to study a diverse range of natural sciences, with an emphasis on ecology, animal behavior, and migratory birds. Shortly after leaving the academic world, Doug migrated north to Alaska with his trusty Siberian husky, Koda. He began working as a naturalist in Denali National Park in 1999. For over seven years he has shared his love of Alaska and Denali’s six million acres with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests, as trip leader for the Denali Land Extension based at the North Face Lodge deep within the park.

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