When you travel determines exactly how far you have to sail to find the pack ice. Early in the season, there is often a lot of pack ice around Svalbard’s northernmost islands. As the season progresses and the weather gets warmer, the pack ice retreats north, and eventually leaves the islands all together. Ships often have to sail for several hours to reach the edges of the pack ice, before pushing through into the ice in search of polar bears. Once thing you can be sure of, is that where there is pack ice, there are polar bears. Often it is patience that is the key for spotting the bears, that and a well-trained eye. Expert expedition leaders have years of experience in the Arctic and are used to spotting bears moving slowly along the horizon.
Some ships spend less time in the ice because they are not as capable of breaking back out of the ice that re-freezes around them, so again, a small ship which is strong enough to park in the ice is key to spotting the bears. Often just turning off the engines and waiting is the best way to see the bears, as curious youngsters often head over to the ships to explore. You’ll be amazed at the scenery this far north.
The whites, blues and pinks of the pack ice are breath-taking, and you really do get a sense of being at the top of the world surrounded by such a pristine wilderness, where the only sounds are the ones made by your ship.