Jewels of the Arctic 2014 Expedition Report

In late August 2014 I led a ship based polar photography expedition from Isafjord in the north of Iceland to the remote east coast of Greenland and west coast of Svalbard – The Jewels of the Arctic. During this expedition we sailed across the Denmark Strait from Iceland and explored and photographed the wild and remote fjords of Greenland and stunning glacial landscapes of Svalbard. We saw and photographed giant icebergs, precipitous mountains that plunge hundreds of metres into the sea, majestic wildlife and much more. We encountered Arctic pack ice and spent many hours photographing from ship, shore and zodiac under the midnight Arctic sun. Greenland IcebergThis trip report is going to be a little different to those I have written up in the past. Rather than recount just the highlights and main experiences I am instead going to post the day-by-day reports that are handed out to participants at the end of each day. At the conclusion of every day of the expedition the staff and crew compile a report of our activities for the day as well as our upcoming plans for the following day. The intention of these daily reports is not only to keep everyone on the expedition up to date but also to provide a record at the end of trip for participants to take home. These reports give a wonderful insight into ship board life and the many experiences over the course of the expedition. They cover a lot more than just the photography (in fact they are not really meant to be photography based, and are focused on life aboard ship and in the Arctic) and include information about the ships position, weather, wildlife encounters, our daily itinerary and even a few Russian language tips in good faith to our crew. The Trip Daily Reports can be downloaded as a complete PDF file HERE.

FracturedAs with all polar expeditions we encountered a variety of weather that included a remarkably calm and flat Denmark Strait and Greenland sea crossing. Both of these stretches of water are quite notorious and can be as rough as the Drake Passage (that thin stretch of water between South America and Antarctica). Thankfully we were fortunate to experience calm seas for the duration of our expedition, which really maximised our photography – both on ship and on zodiac. I lost count of the number of zodiac excursions during the fourteen days we were in the Arctic but they included many, many hours cruising amongst gigantic icebergs and dramatic mountain scenery.

Greenland DawnI am still sorting through and editing the many thousands of photographs I made during this expedition. These few  images I have had the time to process since returning are just a small sample of the sort of incredible scenery we encountered during our two weeks in Greenland and Svalbard. The Organ Pipes in GreenlandGreenland in particular is a landscape photographers paradise and remains for me one of the most geologically amazing locations I have ever visited. No where else have I ever seen such amazing and precipitous mountain formations or such incredible glacial scaring across the face of the landscape. The fjords are lined with magnificent orange and yellow mountains  that are a wonderful counterpoint to the gigantic icebergs that drift slowly through the fjords. As the glaciers continue to thin and recede the newly uncovered landscape offers amazingly varied opportunities for photography. The glaciology of the Arctic is truly something to behold and even though the glaciers are sadly in full retreat at an incredibly alarming rate the opportunities for photography remain boundless. The high Arctic is an incredibly special place to visit and photograph and it was as always an absolute privilege and pleasure to share it with all aboard our ship.

Ice and GlacierI am looking forward to returning next year to Svalbard to lead two dedicated expeditions to photograph Polar Bears north of Svalbard at the edge of the permanent pack ice. These two expeditions will be using much smaller twelve person ships which will enable us to get down to eye level with wild Polar Bears. Both of these expeditions are already sold out, but if you would like to be amongst the first to be notified when the 2016 trips are open for bookings please just drop me an email.

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