How it all started

Brandgans; Barnacle Goose; Branta leucopsis
Barnacle Goose

People often ask me how I ended up being addicted to the Arctic. Well, I didn’t pick the Arctic, it picked me… It all started in the spring of 1999 when I was still a student in Groningen. I was following one of my final courses (Animal Ecology) and had already started to think about what kind of master theses I would like to do. Most biology students in the Netherlands do two different research projects for their masters. I had already decided on my first project: the relation between Hare and vegetation on the salt marsh of Schiermonnikoog. I wasn’t sure about the second project, but somewhere on a nice beach with some palm trees sounded nice. I couldn’t be further from the truth… During the animal ecology course I got a message that Maarten Loonen was looking for me. He needed someone to help him do research on Barnacle Geese in Ny Ålesund, Spitsbergen and he was thinking of me… I didn’t know Maarten and just knew enough about Spitsbergen not to expect palm trees there. As this was before the cellphone era (how could we ever live without…), it was a bit hard to get hold of him. First I got his answering machine, which was great, as I did have a lot of questions. Unfortunately the answering machine didn’t have any answers… One week later, I called again and this time I did get to speak to Maarten. He was really happy to speak to me, because he had already booked my flight! And apart from that, he had arranged almost everything for me, I only had to pack my bag…

Well, so no beach with palm trees, but an icy sea filled with icebergs. Only 5 weeks later I set foot on Spitsbergen for the first time, spending 2 months in Ny Ålesund that summer doing research on Barnacle Geese. After those two months, I vowed to return to this magical place. I definitely kept that vow, as this is now 13 years ago and I’ve returned 11 times now… The first three years I did research on geese, but wasn’t much of a photographer yet, so I never made a good picture of my research subject. This summer we spent a full night in Ny Ålesund with the Noorderlicht (accidentally a night where Mellagret, the pub in Ny Ålesund, was opened). Before going to the pub, I spent some time taking pictures of those beautiful geese. Here a male goose guarding the feeding goslings.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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