Bears, Foxes, Blue Whales, Seals, Oh My!
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 14
We got home from our vacation late Monday night. I spent an hour or so going through the mail and then looked at the stack of newspapers that I will begin to wade through to get caught up on events. We did not have internet or cell phone access so being totally out of touch with the happenings of the past couple of weeks was interesting for this news junkie.
If you have a “bucket list” and have an inclination to experience a fabulous cruise ship, in an intimate setting, that goes where very few others travel, then you need to add Arctic Svalbard to that list. You can Google the ship’s name and get all of the information on all of the National Geographic Ships and their relative cruise locations but this one has to be at the very top of the list of locations where they go worldwide.
We flew from L.A. to London and then on to Oslo, Norway. After a couple of days in Oslo, doing the typical tourist things, we boarded a chartered flight with the other 140 people who were going on the ship with us and flew to Longyearben in the Svalbard Archipelago.
Longyearben is a fascinating city of about 2,000 or so and is known, interestingly enough, for being the location of the only site on the planet where they store underground seeds from all known plants on the planet. It is also known for its coal mining operation as they have one of the finest grades of Anthracite Coal found anywhere on the planet.
There is a small port there and this is where our cruise ship embarked from. For the next six days we cruised around the Archipelago in search of our targeted species, which was the polar bear, one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. We also spent time locating and photographing many other animals including fin back whales, blue whales, walrus, seals, arctic fox, reindeer, and a myriad of avian wildlife.
On the ship we had the privilege of having both photographers and naturalists from The National Geographic Society on board and they were extremely instrumental in both planning our daily events both on and off of the ship as well as explaining what we had witnessed from the ship as well as the land excursions that were offered each day.
I have spent a lot of very enjoyable July 4ths in my lifetime, as it was my dad’s birth date. I have only been away from Long Beach on July 4th on three other occasions but this one will go down as perhaps the most memorable one.
We were cruising through vast fields of ice looking for polar bears and we saw dozens of them on a bright and clear sunny day. We had polar bears come right up to the ship and stand within inches of the hull. It is amazing to be on a ship that is 365 feet long as it literally inches through the ice looking for these magnificent animals.
Needless to say I have some incredible pictures that I will be putting on my website and I look forward to donating some of them to the charity auctions that Cindy and I attend.
This is not one of your standard cruise excursions. It is pricey but worth every penny. If you are someone who looks to do the unusual and have an inkling to spend a week of your summer less than 600 miles from the North Pole — looking for the largest land carnivore on the planet — then you need to seriously consider a trip like this.
I see that there were some interesting things that happened during our vacation that I look forward to writing about in my next couple of articles. I wouldn’t want to keep the “right wingers” in the lurch too long. I know that they just can’t wait for me to say something that they disagree with. Take an extra blood pressure pill you guys because you’ll need it when I get around to writing my next couple of articles.