Endless Arctic Summer Nights

Summer: 21.05.-30.09.2016

It’s hard to tell the difference now. Day and night is the same. Bright at four in the morning, bright at four in the afternoon. The midnight sun offers endless hours of light. The perfect backdrop for exploring Svalbard.

Dog sledding on wheels

The wheels are turning, faster and faster. With no snow on the ground, the dogs are eager to pull our wheeled sleds. Svalbard looks different during summer. Gone are snow-capped peaks. Instead you see patches of green, red and orange on the ground. The dogs are following the lead sled. You’re heading into Endalen, a part of Advent Valley. Everything looks foreign. Like a different planet.

Hike across Foxfonna

The guide drives you up. Criss-crossing the mountain you finally arrive at the top, by a coal mine, and begin to walk.  The icy expanse of the Foxfonna glacier must be crossed, and then you descent to an old trapper cabin. On the way down, the Advent Valley opens up and you can see the jagged peaks on the other side of the Isfjord. You feel the stretch in your muscles, but you don’t want this hike to end. You’re not ready to head back into civilization. You wanna stay out here. Just a little while longer…

Hike from sea to summit

A line-up of sparkling glaciers. You can see everything from the summit of Forkastningsfjellet. To the north, the blue ice sparkles from the mighty Nordenskiöld Glacier. To the west, the front of the Esmark Glacier stands tall and proud. You are on the northern side of the Adventfjord, taking in magnificent panorama of the entire Isfjord.

Isfjord safari to Fuglefjella and Hiorthhamn

The mountain is alive. The cliffs are vibrant and teeming with winged creatures. No wonder they call this place the Bird Mountain. You’re somewhere in the Isfjord, a short boat ride from Longyearbyen. Your guide and skipper excitedly shares everything he knows about Spitsbergen and Svalbard. You strain to hear him over the chattering from thousands of seabirds. Suddenly, the boat engine roars again. Little auks, kittiwakes and guillemots take to the air. Teeming, whirling, they are everywhere, and you’ve never felt more alive.

Isfjord safari to Grumant

No sign of life. It’s a ghost town now. More than a fifty years ago, this place was full of people. It’s eerie. Quiet. Even the bird cliffs are empty – the migratory visitors have headed for southerly climes. The only sound is from the sea, lapping at the abandoned shoreline, washing against the open boat. You can still taste the salty seawater. The boat ride back is gonna be fun.

Fossil hunt with pack dogs, Longyear glacier

This must be millions of years old. You study the rock. It has an imprint of a flower. There are thousands, if not millions, of stones around you and you want to turn each and every one of them to see what secrets they hide. The Longyear Glacier up ahead has eroded the bedrock, turned stone to gravel and created the large moraine you’re standing on. You look at the stone again. This one’s coming home with me.

Boat trip to Barentsburg

The morning sun is reflected in the crystal clear Arctic water. You’re on board MS Langoysund, heading out to the Esmark Glacier and the Russian settlement of Barentsburg. 400 people live there, all from countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union. On the way to Barentsburg you feel the boat slow down, then grind to a halt. You head out on deck, and spot a wall of ice. The glacier is right there. Next stop, Russian Svalbard, you think. Lenin statues and propaganda posters. Such a contrast to tiny Longyearbyen.

Boat trip to Pyramiden

North, north and even further north. You’re leaving the Tempelfjord. The Nordenskiöld Glacier’s powerful blue walls of ice stand in sharp contrast to the mountains surrounding it. The glacier crackles – you can almost feel it moving. You feel like an explorer, discovering a new land for the first time. The ghost town of Pyramiden suddenly appears at the foot of a triangle-shaped mountain. You’re ready to explore the town. Not only ghosts, but polar bears are known to turn up in town. We must stay together in a group. For safety’s sake.

Kayak trip on Adventfjorden

Not a sound. Not a movement. Everything is quiet. Suddenly, a shadow in the water grabs your attention. The shape is easily recognisable. It’s a curious seal checking you out. You grab your paddle and keep going. It’s not far to the other side now. You wonder if the seal will follow you there and back again.