Svalbard revisited

As might been noticed from the updated homepage gallery,  I recently completed a trip to Svalbard in the Arctic circle,  my second trip to the archipelago, the first trip being back in 2013.   Landing in the only town of real size there, Longyearbyen, it appeared that there’s been considerable development in the intervening decade.   Unlike my previous visit, this visit was to be mostly ship based exploration of the northern parts of the islands with the emphasis on sighting polar bears.

In the lead up to this voyage,  I’d read an account by an accomplished wildlife photographer who’d completed his own exploration of the region just 1 to 2 weeks earlier and to his disappointment hadn’t sighted any bears.   In the circumstances, I contented myself with the belief that if I got to see a handful of these endangered animals,  I’d be fortunate.   As it turned out, we saw in excess of 50 bears,  some of them at close range and engaged in some fascinating behaviour as well.

Essentially the only behaviours we didn’t see were, mating and a successful hunt (although we observed several unsuccessful hunts, it’s estimated that only about 10 per cent of hunts result in a kill).

A Polar bear resting up.  This adult, like most we observed, was female, some had cubs.

   A Bearded Seal hauled out on the ice.   This species and the Ringed Seal are the main prey of the bears.

Walrus were also seen.  Whilst this head shot is a lone animal, we also saw walrus in large herds as well.

The Black-legged Kittiwake is almost certainly the most photographed bird species in the region given its gregarious nature and its habit of following boats or ships in the region hoping a feed might be churned up in the vessel’s wake.

Although we spent limited time ashore, the times we did gave some nice reindeer sightings.  Including this animal with it’s moulting fur flapping in the breeze.

In addition to wildlife,  the region offers some spectacular landscapes as well.   Numerous glaciers,  all of which are receding at an alarming rate as global temperatures rise, together with rugged cliffs.   In this image, low hanging clouds which would be a recurring theme.

Clearly I’ve only scratched the surface with this collection of images.  Whilst on the road using high frame rate digital cameras, one issue is handling the sheer volume of data that’s generated and the movement of files between hard drives.   A more thorough review of my images will occur later with the compilation of a new Svalbard image gallery.    Stay tuned.  ~KD.