Polar Bears International

7/8/2012 6:22:34 PM

On to Svalbard!

Our kind of crossing sign! 

America's 4th of July celebration made for quite the send-off for our trip to Svalbard. Booming fireworks and children running and screaming in delight were the soundtrack outside my window as I packed my bags. I stepped outside onto my normally sleepy Bozeman, Montana, street to watch the big show exploding over the fairgrounds and couldn't help but think, "Fireworks are terrible for the environment. We're definitely not helping polar bears tonight!"

After 24 hours of travel I arrived in Oslo, Norway, over 5,000 miles from where my journey began. Things were subtle, but noticeably different. The people are beautiful and generally much healthier looking than other places. There were far less disposables and all of the toilets had the use less water option.

After leaving Olso, our plane dove through a vibrantly illuminated sea of clouds and landed in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, at 11:30 p.m. in full sunlight. Not dawn, not dusk, it could have been noon.

My first thought was "I should have brought my skis." My second thought was "I am about to take more photographs than I've ever taken before."

Rainbow in LongyearbenThe unfamiliar presence of light and build-up of anticipation kept me awake. Extraordinary filmmaker, Henry Harrison, also of Bozeman, is probably about halfway across the Atlantic Ocean on his way to meet me here. Together we'll be joining Polar Kreuzfahrten, which has graciously donated two spots on two of their arctic cruises to PBI. As a team, Henry and I will be gathering media from this arctic wonderland. I'm honored to have the opportunity to work with a group of such passionate people, to absorb and learn as much as I possibly can, and to contribute positive energy and beautiful imagery.

Svalbard is an archipelago of arctic beauty, carved in time by glaciers. 1,500 meter peaks rise out of the sea, a delicate tundra landscape whose wrinkles are accentuated by snow. The cold wind was a welcome sensation after hours of travel.

Svalbard is 60% glacial. The northeast area is mostly Ice Cap, a massive glacial formation covering most of the dry land. The southwest receives a warm tropical ocean current that creates a mild climate. The mild climate results in more valley and cirque glaciers, as well as more dry land.

 Children playing

There are polar bear warning signs and snow machine crossing signs everywhere! It seems as though the residents have more snowmobiles than cars. It is an interesting time to be visiting Svalbard, due to the mild climate, lack of snow, and abundance of sunshine.

The entire archipelago (61,022 square kilometers) is inhabited by only 3,600 people. The arctic landscape is overwhelming, with a human absence that is refreshing.

I spent the afternoon bundled up capturing a time-lapse on the beach. While wandering towards the ocean I was greeted by an arctic tern, also known as a Sabine's Gull. It welcomed me by dive-bombing my head, circling and incessantly chirping. The first time I covered my head with my backpack, as it was mere inches from my hat. I then decided that if I took pictures of it, at least my camera would protect my face.

 Arctic tern

Henry should be arriving within the hour, and tomorrow morning we will board the ship to begin our arctic tour. What an inspiring environment to be immersed in.

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