|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!|
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
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
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
Next came the lifeboat drill, which went
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
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
Trip organised by Arcturus Expeditions Ltd
He can't be seasick! Surely not!
Shore dive anyone?