This will be the last post in this epic trip.
We arrived in Polar bear land on Svalbard which is a fantastic place. The nature is absolutely stunning, and we came there during the period when it is most likely most beautiful. Interestingly, there are more polar bears than human people on Svalbard.
Longyearbyen is an old settlement for mining, but nowadays the university, tourism are more dominant. The mining heritage is always present in the infrastructure however.
Svalbard has some of its own laws and a special treaty saying that citizens from countries that have signed the 1920 Svalbard treaty (which are many) must be treated equally and can claim their citizenship of Svalbard (!)
Outside Longyearbyen it is mandatory to carry a high calibre weapon as protection from polar bears. And the nature with its extreme conditions, mountains and glaciers is definitely not an amusement park when the weather gets bad – which it does quickly.
We went on a Ski-Doo trip for a whole day. Riding a Ski-doo at 100 km per hour is great fun. We were in a group of 9 with different nationalities. When we set of it was really freezing cold, even with helmets, balaclavas, BIG mitts, winter overall and Icebug boots. Any exposed part of your body would get frostbitten instantly when driving at 60-80 km per hour in the -15 or so degrees.
The ride in the landscape was beautiful, mountains, the sun, reindeer, ice formations, glaciers and the landscape in general. But we also got to see what we were looking for – the polar bear! We saw a mother and her cub from about 150 meters away, and I must say that these animals are as fascinating as I thought. I think we were quite lucky, as there was at this time a relatively high chance to see them, but still “only” about a 50% chance. Amazing.
In fact, at the Barneo camp, they had actually seen 3 polar bears (mother and two cubs) just 30 meters away from the camp 2 or 3 days before our arrival. And they did NOT have any riles in the camp. The tent does not provide much shelter or protection….
The next day I took the opportunity to arrange a business meeting with a customer of mine, who is working in a mine 70 km from Longyearbyen. There is absolutely no roads to get there, so normally there is a flight every day, but not on Saturdays. So it was a logistical challenge. I had to rent a Ski-doo, which apparently was not easy as EVERY Ski-doo in Longyearbyen was already rented during this day. But at the end I got to rent one. But I also had to carry my own safety equipment in my backpack, such as down clothing etc. In addition to this, I had to rent a rifle (an ancient Mauser, that probably works better if I threw it on a polar bear…) with expanding ammunition. Of course i bought a map, and I had my GPS. I also needed to rent an emergency satellite beacon. Plus all the normal ski-doo outfit. A challenge and complicated.
The ride over to the customer took a little more than an hour, and was over a really stunning mountain area and several glaciers. On this trip, I saw no polar bears – maybe that was good.
I have made great friends on this trip, both new travel companions, but also many of the very hospitable team members of the Russian SAR team. I am sure we will meet again.
I would like to thank my partners that did the trip sop much more comfortable, in this case most notably Icebug that provided me with fantastic North Pole boots. Very warm in minus 26 Celcius, great for Ski-dooing, and great traction due to the studded sole. Russians were envious.
Also – GoCoCo are as always with me for warm and great fitting socks – odor free even after several days in a tent!
My wife – incredible that you support or at least accept my events and being away for so long. Love you.
Lastly, I would like to sincerely thank all the ones that have enabled this trip. You know who you are.