In late June/early July 2016 I got an unexpected opportunity to join a cruise around the Svalbard archipelago in the far north arctic. It was a place that I had long wanted to visit to experience the iconic arctic scenery and wildlife. The cruise was booked through Tropical Birding as booking agents with Oceanwide Expeditions on the ice breaker cruise ship Ortelius.
The cruise was partly a holiday and partly an eco trip in that the plan was to spend the first three days clearing beaches of rubbish and debris. The remainder of the time would be spent cruising around with the hope of seeing one or more Polar Bears. Due to limited uptake, my late booking earned a substantial discount from the published price.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip. We did our task of clearing beaches so well and so efficiently that our task was completed in only three half day sessions which left us extra time for cruising. We were lucky with the Polar Bears and had sightings of six different animals, one on land at Amsterdam°ya and five on the pack ice at 81░ north. The number of bird species was, as expected, very limited but excellent views were obtained of a massive Brunnich's Guillemot nesting colony, breeding plumage Snow Buntings, and the most hoped for Ivory Gull on a seal carcass. And the scenery just left me speechless !