Svalbard, as you might have gathered from my previous blogs, is simply an amazing place. It is so extreme, that any species that manages to survive up there is quite special, and then some. I went there hoping to see a few of the more charismatic species, but found myself amazed by everything we saw.
The thing that surprised me the most was the amount of landscape images I came back with. Being a true wildlife photographer, I don’t often put time into landscape photography, but in Svalbard, you don’t have a choice! The stark beauty of every new horizon is too inviting. It was great to see a bunch of big-lens wielding photogs giving the wide-angle lenses a run. While the little lenses were out, some new ideas came to mind. For ninety percent of the safari, we had a travelling companion – the northern fulmar. Admittedly, not the most striking bird, but pretty in its own right, these birds would fly behind the boat, swinging left to right for hours on end, giving us great photographic opportunities. Combining the little lenses with the northern fulmars created some magic images.
At one point we found ourselves in between two little auk breeding colonies. These fantastic little birds nest in the thousands underneath large boulders. Sitting patiently on the rocks just off to the side of the nests gets you right into the action, and every few minutes a flock of five hundred or so birds comes whizzing past your camera. Shortly after the little auk colony, we were face to face with a family of harbour seals. Curious by nature, these seals are quite interested in the people taking their picture, so they come in closer for a better look – this was a wonderful discovery for the photographers! Sitting only meters away from these playful seals was an unexpected win for us!
The glaciers that we saw were equally as impressive as the wildlife. The sheer size is difficult to fully understand, and the photographs certainly don’t do the size any justice. Try to imagine a forty-story building and you will get a rough idea as to the size of some of the smaller glaciers leading edges. The massive mountains in the background don’t help the brain compute the size either, by dwarfing these monsters. We did manage to see some carving, which is when large chunks of ice fall off the front of the glacier – scary stuff! It literally sounds like a building being imploded, and the force of the ice falling looks similar to it as well. The waves created by carving glacier ice have toppled boats anchored over a couple of hundred meters away. Hopping into the smaller zodiacs, we went between theses enormous blocks of carved ice and were transported into an ancient world, as some of the ice were a few thousand years old – again, difficult to fully comprehend.
Svalbard is a special place. I feel really privileged to have experienced it both in summer and late winter, and can’t wait to get back again!
To join me safari, click here!