That said...here's an Arctic sunset.
There were a couple of days when I was too busy writing and hiking and photographing to take great notes on where we were. From the image numbers I know that these shots were from October 7–8, and we were on our way north from Krossfjord to Sjettebreen and Smeerenburg. But that's about all I've got.
That said...here's an Arctic sunset.
Low-light resolution is challenging from a moving ship. This is the clearest shot I managed to get of the moonrise:
And then in the morning:
At Sjettebreen, the glacier had been active, and the bay was full of ice. But our guides determined that it would be safe for us to come fairly close to the foot of the glacier in the Zodiacs.
As I mentioned, scale is incredibly difficult to judge in this landscape, which tends to abstract itself to the eye. Here's a shot, from one Zodiac, of the Antigua and the other Zodiac, that gives a better sense of perspective.
Here's a Zodiac up close, on deck. They're not big. Or warm.
WALRUSES, Y'ALL. At Smeerenburg (literally "Blubbertown"—an old whaling outpost where the fat was rendered in onshore ovens), the first Zodiak was greeted by a committee. I won't call it a welcoming committee, because our welcome was far from definite. The three bull walruses swam out to meet us, and it was immediately evident that 1) they were evaluating our worthiness to land and 2) they could have capsized the Zodiak, had they chosen to do so. They are massive. Even from a distance, you can tell how much bigger they are than seals (it's easy to mistake a walrus for a boulder until it moves). The bulls can outweigh polar bears—and a polar bear would probably have to be starving to even attempt attacking a walrus.
After we landed, the three bulls lingered in the waves, watching us change our boots.
On shore was the reason the walruses were so careful: the colony. (We were not allowed to come any closer than this; after all, it was their place, and a territorial walrus is dangerous.) They lay in a ring, bellowing and snorting. It was an obvious society, with complicated interactions and distinct personalities even at a distance.
Not that I would ever say it to a walrus's face, but wow: the smell. It's something akin to bone meal for the garden: rotten-fishy and sulfurous and earthy all at once. After the dry, frozen clean of glaciers and snow, it was...pungent.
Smeerenburg lies in a favorable position to catch driftwood. No wood grows native; most driftwood washes over the top of the world from Siberian forests. After seeing so many treeless landscapes, it was bizarre to encounter a fallen forest.
Well, this got away from me. Taking a few thousand photos in under a month does tend to make the captioning process difficult. I'm going to catch up, as best as I can. This group of photos is from Alicehamna, a bay where a few old trappers' huts remain on shore. (Conditions in Svalbard are the most ideal on earth for preserving the traces of human settlement; this is where our buildings and other relics will linger the longest.)
We didn't get much snow in the first part of the voyage. By Alicehamna, that had changed. Standing on deck was a chilly, slippery experience.
It looks like dusk in most of these photos, but none were taken any later than 4 or 5 p.m., and some are from early afternoon. This was about a week before the start of the dark season, when the sun no longer appears above the horizon at all.
Canadian artist Will Gill occasionally donned a special suit, nicknamed Reflekto-Man. Wearing this, he would take self-portraits through light gels, which painted him in bright, bizarre colors against the monochrome landscape. On my camera, without a gel, you can see how much the suit actually blended in.