A Svalbard ATV Adventure

Gemma Bradley

22 Nov 2018

NWS Gemma burns rubber (figuratively) in the Arctic Circle...

We woke up at 7am after a mere three hours’ sleep... but with a surge of adrenaline and a decent smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast, we were ready to go at 8am! The pickup from our hotel, Funken Lodge, was quick and easy. “Stig” was ready and waiting to take us to the Svalbard ATV office, just outside of Longyearbyen – about a 5-minute drive.

We had a quick safety briefing, flashed our driving licenses and then it was time to change into our Arctic onesies! We were given big overalls, gloves, boots, a balaclava and a helmet. They had lots of sizes to choose from and even Size 13 boots for my rather tall travelling partner!

Next was a lesson in driving the ATVs. If you can drive an automatic car then you can drive one of these bad boys! All we had to do was master starting the vehicle in park, put it into drive and then we were off! The ATVs were really easy to drive, super safe and pretty quick, and within about 10 minutes we were all off on the road.

Our first sighting was an Arctic fox, and the next was an Arctic tern hammering down on the head of Stig, protecting its precious eggs which were nestling in the nearby grass. The first stop was Advent Valley, where we learnt all about the Germans flying overhead after Svalbard’s first runway was built during World War II. We got off of the ATVs to view the first aurora-viewing pod and the coal mines.

Jumping back on the ATVs, we headed up north towards the satellite station for a cup of hot blackcurrant, AKA Arctic Red Bull! Although cloudy, the view was picturesque. At the station we learnt about Svalbard’s three main income sources, which are mining, tourism and the scientific study of geology. With a population of just 2,000, most people only stay for four years! Both guides admitted the polar nights were hard and the Northern Lights sightings were disappointedly limited.

The last stop was an old trapper’s station that has now been turned into Basecamp Explorer’s husky den. We learnt all about the old hunters who would hang a seal outside of their hut with a bell attached. When the bell rung the trappers popped out, shot the hungry polar bear and returned to their hot coffee… a sad but true hunting fact. While petting the beautiful and energetic dogs, Stig tells us that they have to find a careful balance between meeting the legal limit of exercising the dogs and not overrunning them, which would give them sore paws from running on the gravel.

After a final victory lap we head back to the office to park up and get changed. Our exciting adventure has come to an end! This is just one of many different adventures and activities that you can do whilst visiting Longyearbyen, either before or after your polar bear expedition. Speak to a member of our dedicated Polar team for more information.

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