In August last year Daniel Bergmann and I lead a ten day expedition (Kingdom of the Ice Bear) north of the Svalbard Archipelago in search of Polar Bears, dramatic Arctic landscapes and other Arctic wildlife. One of the photographers who joined us (Harvey Lloyd-Thomas) has just published a report on the expedition with On-Landscape magazine. Excerpt from the report below:
The Voyage of the Malmö
Harvey Lloyd-Thomas writes about his trip to Svalbard
The Svalbard archipelago – formerly known as Spitsbergen – high in the Arctic, is somewhere I’ve long wanted to visit. It is not clear when Svalbard was first discovered, was it the mysterious land of Thule written of by the Greeks? Was it even the cold shores recorded by the Norse from which Svalbard gets its name? What is certain is the sighting in 1596 of pointed mountains which translates as Spitsbergen, by the Dutch sailor Barents.
Historically Svalbard became know as a whaling base, in more recent times for coal mining and today tourism is on the rise. Politically Svalbard has had a unique status since a 1925 treaty ceded the lands to Norway, but retaining a Russian presence (illustrated by Vodafone sending me a welcome to Russia text as we sailed past the mouth of the fjord containing the Russian mining settlement of Barentsburg, then shortly after welcoming me to Norway as we neared Longyearbyen). Today Svalbard mainly makes the news for polar bear attacks (fortunately a rare occurrence) and the Doomsday seed vault buried in the permafrost.
While I must have seen Svalbard on maps before, I first remember reading about the archipelago in the Time-Life Photography Year 1974/75 book, which was in the art rooms during my time in the sixth form back in the 80s. The book included a feature on the then new phenomenon of photo safarisand the first such voyage to Svalbard. Subsequently I heard about and saw photos from a trekking holiday a friend made to the islands back in the 90s. So in 2014 when the opportunity arose to sign-up for a photo safari to Svalbard in the summer of 2015 aboard the MS Malmö, it was an opportunity – despite the expense – I felt I could not pass on. It would round off my exploration of North Atlantic islands and further north into the Arctic Circle, having previously visited the Shetland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, east Greenland and northern Norway.
You can read his full trip report and enjoy all his photographs at On Landscape Magazine. Please also consider subscribing to this excellent magazine.