So Henrik, what is it that you love about the Norwegian coastline?
Sailing up the Norwegian coastline is unique; it allows you to visit places you cannot normally access on your own and to visit some of the prettiest spots in Europe. I love Norway – I spent a great deal of time there as a child and over the years got to know the mountains very well; but the coast offers something very different – a wonderful blend of natural beauty, history and culture.
The fishing communities (active and inactive) are wonderful to visit and the history associated with these villages is fascinating. We’ll often take the opportunity to stop at the colourful coastal towns and meet a few of the friendly locals, which is always great fun! The country is visually beautiful, very green with pretty wild flowers that carpet the ground, while impressive rocky islands are dotted along the coast. The scenery from the ship is outstanding as we hug the coast enjoying the imposing mountain landscapes. Simply enjoying a cup of coffee from the deck and taking in the scenery is wonderful. On the voyage we go through narrow channels that are otherwise inaccessible to larger ships. These inlets are incredibly picturesque and the perfect build up to the majestic Fjords that Norway is so well known for. I may have spent a lot of time in Norway, but entering these dramatic formations still takes my breath away every time!
Why is the Norwegian coast different to the rest of the Arctic?
Norway is like an introduction to the rest of the Arctic – the gateway to the High Arctic. The pretty villages and stunning scenery are a perfect contrast to the rugged land of ice as we head up towards the North Pole. Norway’s coast is one of the few places in the world where you can be at the Arctic Circle and see the Midnight Sun just above the horizon. As we sail north the trees will slowly thin out and eventually completely disappear as we reach the shores of Spitsbergen. Here the shores are lined with large glaciers poring into the sea from the jagged snow-covered peaks.
Polar Pioneer stops at Bear Island… What is it like?
Bear Island is isolated in the ocean halfway between Norway and Svalbard. Its remote location makes landing there all the more exciting as it is exposed to strong winds and big waves with few places to land. Landings here are weather dependent, but If conditions allow, it is a remarkable and unique opportunity. Even seeing it from the ship is awe-inspiring with its dramatic steep shoreline and towering rocky cliffs. The island boasts unique bird life with an amazing array of colonies that you can hear before you see!
Tell us about your most memorable experiences of Spitsbergen….
There are so many highlights that it is hard to pick just one!
However one experience that springs to mind would be seeing a Polar Bear stalking a seal sleeping on the ice. We sat for an hour watching the bear hunting and finally catching the seal. It was remarkable to observe. Although we are spoilt for choice with walrus, Arctic fox, reindeer and dozens of bird species, there is no doubt that Polar Bears are the highlight of Spitsbergen!