Svalbard: Prelude to The Arctic


Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

August 7, 2015

Sawatdee krop,

I arrive at the airport in Longyearbyen.

It’s 10:00pm.

The evening sky is overcast.  The clouds are bright.

A young guide greets me at the airport.

“When does it get dark?” I ask him.

He smiles and responds, “This is as dark as it gets.”

“Wow! I know my geography.  I am above the Arctic Circle!” 

Svalbard: Arctic Wildlife

On Board 

MS Nordstjernen

The Greenland Sea


August 9, 2015


Even the experienced guides had never seen such a sight!

A dead walrus?  Sure.  They had seen one before.  They had seen a polar bear feasting on the carcass.  They had seen a polar bear and her cub feasting at the scene.

But never before had they seen such a sight!

Svalbard: Outstanding!



78°55’30”N 11°55’20”E


The Arctic


So, can you name the northernmost civilian settlement in the world?

Here’s a hint:

A research town in Oscar II Land on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. It is situated on the Brøgger peninsula (Brøggerhalvøya) and on the shore of the bay of Kongsfjorden.

Svalbard: At Sea

At Sea

Aboard the MS Nordstjernen 


August 8, 2015

My friends,

Here are a few facts about Svalbard:

Svalbard formerly known by its Dutch name Spitsbergen is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole.

Svalbard is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. 

The Arctic Ocean: Searchin'

At Sea

MV Nordstjernen

August 9, 2015  



I first heard the word logodile on a motorboat trip on the New River in Belize.  Our destination was Lamanai, the archeological site of an ancient Mayan city deep in the jungle.  Along the jungle river route we encountered what you might expect at 17 degrees north latitude in Central America:  a thick green canopy of variegated flora and several species of birds. 

One bird in particular remains vividly in my memory:  a slight creature that gingerly scampers across the water atop the lily pads.  Who can remember the proper name of this species?  But the nickname is unforgettable: the Jesus Bird!

Plants and birds are fine, but somewhere out there lies an ancient, yet elusive reptile species.   We search and search and search.  Suddenly a passenger excitedly shouts, “I see one!  I see one just over there!”  The passengers scamper over to see.  The tour guide takes a look and calmly responds in his oft repeated nonplussed manner, “Sorry folks, it’s only a logodile.”  (A portmanteau word if there ever was one!)

There are no reptiles and nothing green here in the Arctic Ocean, at 78 degrees north latitude.  There’s plenty of black and white and blue - a very special beauty.   Plenty of sea birds too who make a living in the frigid north and surely some of the passengers aboard ship are counting and cataloging them. 

Binoculars, however, are mostly focused on the surface of the sea and on the distant shorelines.  We search and search and search.

Searchin'   The Coasters. 1957.