NWS Client Michelle Spots Plentiful Wildlife in Svalbard

Michelle Ackerman

29 Jun 2018

NWS client Michelle tells us about her incredible animal sightings in the wilds of Svalbard

My husband and I just returned from an incredible trip to Svalbard. It was better than we could have hoped. 

First of all, the crew on our expedition were all experts in their fields (marine biology, birds, polar bears, geology, etc.), so they were able to explain everything that we saw plus give talks in between wildlife outings. We learned so much.

The expedition took us through incredible scenery. We had lovely weather as well. Cold, but sunny. Speaking of cold, everyone was given a parka to wear. These were warm and waterproof!

Because the crew members truly love what they do AND because they wanted us to see wildlife, they found perfect spots to take us. We saw polar bears – and cubs – as well as seals, walruses, reindeer, puffins and many other types of Arctic birds.

There were two outings each day if the weather cooperated. First the crew members sent out scouts to make sure that if we did go to land, there were no bears nearby. Then when it was determined to be safe, we all boarded 10-person zodiacs to get to land. The time a polar bear and two cubs was spotted, we did get into our zodiacs, but, obviously, we stayed in the water. However, we were certainly close enough for an incredible viewing. The cubs played with each other and I was in heaven!

When about 30 walruses were spotted on a beach, we again piled into the zodiacs to get a closer view. The walruses did not even mind us being there! They are huge, by the way. You can tell when you are so close!

Sometimes, there were small icebergs or floating sheets of ice in the water. They were beautiful. And we did see seals on the ice!

Because of climate change the pack ice is only about 600 miles from the North Pole. However, the ship's captain did take us there even though it was not on the itinerary to go that far north! This is where we saw another polar bear. And he stood up to smell us! We were safe on the ship, but this did make for incredible photos.

In the evenings, there was music and dancing including an 86-person conga line. And believe it or not, one evening was "warm" enough for us to have a barbecue dinner outside. Speaking of the food, it was top notch. All food preferences and allergies were accounted for.

We are actually sad to be home. This was just an incredible experience that everyone should put on their bucket list.

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