Lisa G Saw


Arctic Adventure in Svalbard, Norway

In July 2016 I went on an Arctic Adventure to the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway, formerly known by it's Dutch name of Spitsbergen.

Read My Arctic Story See The Maps Find Out More: Climate Change In the Arctic


From Longyearbyen we headed up the west coast of Svalbard and after a day at sea stopped at the Monaco Glacier. We spent the morning, before breakfast, on the zodiacs, gliding in between the icebergs. In the afternoon we went for a tundra walk.


From Monaco Glacier we headed north towards the pack ice in the hopes of seeing some polar bears. This was the whole purpose of the trip and everything else was just a bonus! Within about an hour of reaching the pack ice we saw our first polar bear! You never forget the first one! I've included in this set a series of photos so you can can an idea of its movement across the pack ice. Use the keyboard arrow keys to move from one photo to the next.


We spent several days at sea on board the Vavilov and the scenery was stunning.


We saw an abundance of other wildlife on this trip including many different species of birds, arctic fox, reindeer, walruses and whales. I was particularly excited about seeing my first puffin, which was doing laps around the ship one morning, when we were whale watching. I didn't realise until I got home that one managed to get in the frame with the whales!

The second polar bear we saw later that day swimming in the water. We moved ahead of it and when it finally got out onto the pack ice it was curious and came right up to the bow of the ship, within 10m of so of us, before it wandered off. Later that same evening we saw another polar bear far off in the distance, with the stunning Seven Islands providing a fabulous backdrop. On the second day at the pack ice we saw two more bears. The first had an injured paw and the second had himself a kill. We watched as he covered the seal in ice, which is a rare sight.

The day didn't end there. Whilst this bear was enjoying his supper, we did too on the deck of the Vavilov. A few hours later there was a call from someone 'there's another bear approaching'! I never dreamed I'd see two bears at the same time. The one we'd seen earlier that afternoon, with the injured paw, could smell the kill and came to get a piece of the action. It looked like an adolescent female who clearly was very hungry. We thought she was quite big when we'd seen her that morning, but alongside the male bear it was clear to see which was the dominant one. We were in awe as we watched the story unfold in front of our eyes; the younger one edging closer, anxious to eat and the big male having none of it. Eventually the mist came in lower and we moved away leaving them to it. In those final moments the male left, slipping into the water, and the youngster rushed across to scavenge on the leftovers.

This was not the end of our polar bear watching. A few evenings later we came across another bear eating its kill and it didn't seem bothered that we were watching. It was this one that provided the perfect footprints in the snow as it walked away from us. On our last day at the pack ice, in the final hours before we were to leave, we saw our last polar bear of the trip. Talk about saving the best for last! The ship was skillfully maneouvred into the edge of the pack ice and this last curious bear came right up alongside the hull of the ship, within metres of us. She walked around the bow to the other side, paused here for a while before leaving.


We had a few landings on this trip, so we weren't at sea the whole time. The last three photos were taken on our final morning back in Longyearbyen.