Franz Josef Land & Svalbard - 2018

Introduction What is the attraction of Earth’s Polar Regions? Are the magnetic fields of the geography the “pull” that some of us feel? Perhaps I cannot answer for everyone who ventures north above the Arctic Circle or south below the Antarctic Circle, but I can share what attracts us in this journal. The wildlife is the first “magnet” because there are species of birds, mammals, and even insects that live nowhere else in the world as well as ones that live parts of their life cycles in these areas. The unspoiled beauty of the stark and angular landscapes is another attraction. The intensity of a world of ice, glaciers, tundra plants and the black and white glory is another. The changing light every hour of the many hours of daylight is so beautiful and amazing. The variety of cloud shapes and densities is a constant sky show. The sea colors are equally changeable and impressive. All these factors are augmented by the personal thrill, fun, and satisfaction of seeing such a remote wilderness with so little imprint of man in its space! An important lure for some adventurers is certainly the fascinating history of the many explorations of the area. Intrepid explorers mapped their findings, looked for passages through the Arctic ice fields, searched for possible resources like coal, and hunted the outsized creatures living there for science or sport. Many left physical evidence of their experiences, like huts, campsites, and journals. Some of these brave efforts ended in tragedy, some in total failure of purpose, and a few actually found success and fame for their hardships and mere survival. This expedition also brought Kay and me back to Norway’s northernmost possession, the archipelago of Svalbard, where excursions into the high arctic often begin. Longyearbyen, the northernmost capital in the world, sits on “valbard’s largest island, “pitzbergen. It is a fascinating multicultural small town with its interests spread over scientific research, tourism, education, conservation, and sports activities like snowmobiling, dog mushing, skiing and even fishing. The several islands comprising Svalbard offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, with major fjords, craggy, cloud-kissed mountains cradling the icy water fingers, expanses of beautiful tundra with tiny but gorgeous plants and flowers, magnificent skies overhead, and wildlife as varied as Artic Fox, Polar Bears, Walrus, Reindeer, Seals, and Whales in the sea waters surrounding the various islands.

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