Svalbard 2015 – Day 1: To infinity… and beyond!
Off on adventure! This is day one of my trip with Wildphoto to Svalbard. I’ll be linking to each day from this parent post as I write them. While the official trip with Wildphoto started the 15th, I went up on the 14th to be on the safe side and to see a little of Longyearbyen.
Departure was at a rather comfortable 9:55 from Oslo Airport Gardermoen, so at least I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night.
For my Kenya trips I’ve normally travelled with a carry-on rollerbag for my essential photo gear, the excellent Think Tank Airport TakeOff, a laptop shoulderbag (these days I’m usually bringing the Think Tank Retrospective 30 for this purpose), and a roller dufflebag for check-in. This is sort of manageable. Due to the addition of thick winter clothes, boots, etc, this time I had added the North Face Basecamp dufflebag… it’s XL just to make sure it wouldn’t be too easy to handle, and when you add it all up, it wasn’t 🙂 Thankfully my parents offered to drive me to the airport and helped me haul everything inside.
My flight was SAS SK4414 which was scheduled to land in Longyearbyen at 13:55, with a short stop in Tromsø. This kind of flight apparently have a mandatory exercise element to it wherein you have to gather up all your belongings from the cabin, drag them around a short tour of Tromsø airport, and then go through ID check and boarding again, to your previous seat. Fun and games for the whole family!
The reason I went with SAS and not Norwegian, is that while Norwegian has a carry-on allowance of 10kg and SAS 8kg, I’ve never had to weigh my bags with SAS but I have with Norwegian, and I have a slight issue getting my gear down to exactly the allowed limit :-/ This is my nightmare every time I’m going on a photo trip.
Weather was beautiful and allowed for some great scenery. I don’t normally choose a window seat, but since this was such a short flight I did, and I didn’t regret it 🙂
Flying in over Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, I saw a lot more ice and snow than I had expected. Of course I didn’t really have anything to compare with, but seeing drift ice south of the south tip of Spitsbergen was a surprise to me.
We landed on time and while the airport was pretty chaotic after 2 days without flights due to fog, I managed to get my bags quickly and headed for the bus. Note. Bring a 10 kr coin. Releasing a bag trolley takes a 10kr (NOK) coin, and there’s absolutely nowhere to exchange anything else (I had a 5 and a 20). Incidentally, the bus to Basecamp is 75 NOK.
Basecamp Spistbergen (Also known by at least 2 other names to make sure you’re not quite sure where you’re supposed to go in a town with 2 hotels) is an excellent hotel. It feels like an basecamp for all sorts of adventure, and even though the rooms are basic, the idea of covering the walls with driftwood to create the impression of a hunter cabin makes it such a neat place.
Going up here the day before the official departure date with the ship was a good idea. I had time to relax and look around, and while I was checking in I met another participant on the trip, who was missing his essential photo gear, because he had checked it in and a lot of luggage hadn’t made it due to backlog after the 2 days of cancelled flights. I felt relieved I had dragged the gear with me into the cabin. (Note, SAS had put up extra flights and he got the gear by the evening).
In the afternoon as I was having dinner at Kroa that’s in the same building as my hotel, I met two more participants, a couple I had been to Kenya with two years earlier with another Wildphoto trip. They had a rented car and invited me to come a long for a trip later that night, I accepted 🙂
They took me up into the mountains surrounding Lonyearbyen for some interesting panoramas I would have never gotten on my own.
After driving around for a while, and also getting some shots of an ivory gull and some other birds that didn’t really turn into any photographic opportunities, we came across an arctic fox stealing eggs by the dog yard outside of Longyearbyen. I didn’t get any good shots of it with the eggs, unfortunately, but we managed to catch its attention and I got some interesting shots of it as it lurked around us 🙂
After this we headed back to our hotels. I think I was back at my room at 03:15, realizing that shooting somewhere with 24/7 daylight could prove more exhausting than I had anticipated… 🙂