Trip Review & Video from the M/S Stockholm

Alison Kaluski

21 Aug 2015

Returning to the High Arctic

Having been on a similar trip 6 years ago, we were really looking forward to returning to the high Arctic, and especially to the Stockholm, a wonderful ship built in 1953, with a homely atmosphere, a great captain, fantastic crew, and very delicious food (and plenty of it!).  We were also very lucky with the weather throughout the 10 day trip although the first day was overcast and choppy, the sun then broke through and we enjoyed a week of glorious sunshine before the clouds and fog returned for the last couple of days.

The general routine on board was breakfast at 08.00, lunch at 13,00 and dinner at 19.00 and most days you will have a Zodiac ride in the morning and also in the afternoon - unless you are in the midst of the pack ice looking for polar bears. But there was no set itinerary, it all depended on what wildlife we came across and how co-operative it was. Every day brought a new and different encounter. And with the glory of the midnight sun, wildlife can approach at any time - we were once woken at 1.30 am for a 2 hour zodiac ride in search of a mum with two tiny cubs.

Nothing prepares you for that first visit to the ship by a polar bear - they amble up as if they haven't got a care in the world, attracted by the tasty smells from the galley. 

A huge male bear even stood up to sniff the ship - he poked his nose through the grills on the deck and we were advised to stand back!  We were fortunate to have a number of really great encounters with these awesome maritime mammals  - large males, smaller females and younger adults, and two males who made their acquaintance right in front of the ship!

But, fabulous as they are, the trip was also so much more than just about polar bears. One of the benefits of going at this time of year is that you can approach huge cliffs and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of thousands of nesting birds. The little Auks in particular entertained us with their huge flocks, with Puffins and Black and Brunnich's guillemots also in abundance. And the gulls, kittiwakes and fulmars all swooped and dived around the ship, as did the rare dark phase Pomarine Skua.

The landscapes are amazing, the abundance of arctic flora and fauna exceeded all expectations. We were thrilled to see many different types of inquisitive seals - harbour, ringed and bearded. 

We had such a fabulous encounter with a group of curious walrus who "boiled" the water for us right in front of the Zodiac. 

And, on more than one occasion during some interesting hikes we came across a number of Svalbard reindeer and Arctic foxes

There is also a lot of history to Svalbard, and you can only marvel at the steadfastness of the trappers who over wintered in Svalbard in small wooden huts returning to town in spring to get supplies and sell their furs and the derring do of the hot air balloon flights and the Norwegian, British and Russian explorers. The museum in Longyearbyen is also well worth a visit if you get a chance before you start the trip. And to get to travel above 80 degrees North is a real tick off the bucket list.

Other highlights were that we also got to see lots of different types of whales - minke, humpback and a once in a lifetime opportunity of a blue (or possibly fin) whale - a real rare treat.  I also must thank our fellow travellers for their great company and friendship and our Expedition Leader Ronald and Guide Henrik for all the information they gave us via the wonderful briefings, talks and slideshows - they were both really excellent and certainly made the trip for us. Thank You!

We disembarked with a heavy heart and can only hope we get the opportunity to return to the M/S Stockholm again sometime in the future.

If you are interested in the Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer please do get in touch with our destination specialists.

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