Arctic Desert

I leave for Svalbard on Thursday, and will be pretty much in radio silence until I get back to England on July 28.  A few of the things I’ve gleaned from stories from Finch and The Internets about where we’re going:

– predictably, there is midnight sun — i.e., the light is visible for 24 hours.  I’ve never experienced this before, and being all Canadian and suchlike, I’m not used to combining cold and light.

– cold.  I think the weather is mostly around +6C, which is very manageable, but we’ll a) be on a boat and b) I can’t find my wonderful perfect gloves.  So I predict my fingers will be perpetually cold.

– even the official governor’s site that describes the region points out that Svalbard has never been a place where people have settled.  There is no generational continuity — people come and go.  The history sort of goes:  whaling, hunting, research and expeditions, mining, tourism.  Just mining and tourism now.  “The lore is full of tragedies,” the official site says.  “Graves are the most common artifact.”  Lots of scope for my somewhat morbid interest in photographing how people mark memories of lives gone.

– Finch and I are spending 4 days on land taking photographs in Longyearbyun at the beginning of the trip, then boarding a small boat with a group for 16 days.  I may be able to post a bit from that initial foray.  I really have no idea what to expect.  Icy tundra.  Glaciers.  Hacked out lands from mining.

– the geography is apparently astonishing.  According to the governor:  “In Svalbard we find rocks from practically every geological period. Rarely does geology tell its tale more eloquently than it does in Svalbard where vegetation is so sparse.”  They also point out that Svalbard looks like it’s emerging from an ice age.

– There are not so many whales anymore, but I should see belugas, plus narwhals, walrus, polar bears, arctic fox, reindeer and birds.  I’m supposed to memorize the short checklist.  I haven’t done that yet.

I’m nervous with excitement.  And I wish I could find my gloves.





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