Early morning on Wednesday last week I started on a long journey - ending up in Longyearbyen at Svalbard in late afternoon. The occasion was a trip for suppliers and customers of the company BK Gisholt Finne where I am a board member. Being one of the founders of Basecamp Explorer (winner of several prestigious eco-tourism awards, and having visited these arctic islands under Norwegian sovereignty several times before, I had taken the job as guide for 20 men on tour.
I was certainly looking forward to exploring more of Svalbard's amazing nature. After one night in Longyearbyen we took off on our snow scooters, aiming for Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linne 120 kilometres away. The station was established in 1933 to act as an intermediary for traffic between Svalbard Radio and ships in the waters around Svalbard. During the second world war, Isfjord Radio was destroyed by German occupying forces. The station was rebuilt and set back into operation in 1946. Most of Isfjord Radio's functions were moved to Longyearbyen a long time ago, and the station is today operated as a tourist destination by Basecamp Spitsbergen.
During hours taking in Svalbard's spectacular nature, with temperatures of 15 below (Centigrade), I also contemplated my upcoming trip to Kenya. You may say that a job not far from the north pole, in polar bear country, brings in money we use toward our work for elephants on the other side of the globe. This is also my excuse for posting this... Some of the challenges facing polar bears and elephants are partly connected. Global warming may lead to disastrous loss of habitat for both species. The headlines are melt-down of ice and snow - and more drought.
It's fair to tell you that I arranged the photo to the right just for fun. I couldn't resist getting my guys to pretend that they were waiting for their turn in front of this toilet-like construction on the very edge of Kapp Linne.
The tiny house has obviously been used at one point as a look-out towards the often very rough Isfjorden. (©ElephantVoices)
We didn't see polar bears during our stay, but on Svalbard one is always prepared to meet them. Our trip was nonetheless fantastic, with spectacular views in all directions. After two sunny and clear days we ended up in a snow storm on the way back. My group was lucky enough to see the real arctic - in which the weather changes in minutes from crystal clear to almost zero visibility.
The world is full of contrasts, and Svalbard and Kenya are obvious examples. While preparing for my morning flight tomorrow Friday 18th I feel privileged to be able to experience both!
Best wishes, Petter