A Natural High in the Arctic

Armed with little more than images of polar bears and ice, we sent our Marketing Manager David Mannix aboard Polar Pioneer where he discovered there's a lot more to the High Arctic than just the cliches.

“It's easy - Antarctica is a frozen continent surrounded by oceans while the Arctic is a frozen ocean surrounded by continents.” And that my friends was about the extent of my knowledge of the Arctic, as explained to me by a colleague, before I ventured on board one of Aurora's expeditions to Spitsbergen.

That's the thing about the Arctic, it's one of the few places in the world that's hard to define. Few people have ever been there, it's very rarely in the news and most puzzling of all, the Arctic has no universally recognised definition as to where it actually is. I had vague notions of Spitsbergen lying just off the north coast of Europe, but it was only when I looked at my globe at home that I realised just how far north I was heading. As I scoured the earth searching for the islands of Svalbard, of which Spitsbergen is a part, I found to my surprise that the northern reaches of the archipelago was partly covered by the axis of my globe. Now that is what I call north!

It's this lack of preconceptions that for me make Spitsbergen such a rewarding place to explore. Far from a monotonous landscape of ice and tundra, it has an extraordinary diversity that seems to creep up on you little by little. Just when you thought you had seen it all, a new critter would present itself or an astonishing landscape would appear over the bow until finally you begin to expect the unexpected.