The joy of guiding

Memorial for the Andree-expedition at Kvitøya
Memorial for the Andree-expedition at Kvitøya

Before the season starts plans are made for all cruises. Most cruises are supposed to go around the main island of Spitsbergen, going through Hinlopenstretet, but few go all the way around and even to Kvitøya. This easternmost island is almost completely covered by an icecap (hence the name ‘white island’) and only has a few small ice free spots where we could land. Complicating factors for landings are the almost certainty of having bears ashore and sometimes difficult weather and sea conditions for landing. On the western tip of the island, Andreeneset, the Swedish attempt to reach the North Pole by hydrogen filled balloon by Andree, Strindberg and Fraenkel came to an unfortunate end in 1897. Because this is one of the few ships that try to visit this place, we had quite a few Swedish guests on board who were really keen to land here and see the place where they died. Some of them came together every evening and read a little from a book telling the story of this ill-fated expedition. We were very pleased that we did make it ashore at this special place. The conditions were quite rough and it was a tough way to learn how to get in and out of a zodiac for our guests as this was our first real zodiac-landing of the cruise. But everybody made it ashore, al be it in two groups, so we could quickly leave if the conditions changed or a bear would suddenly show up. And he did… When the second group had just reached the monument, a bear showed up and we quickly retreated and left the scene. Especially the Swedish people were very happy that evening in the bar. It’s really nice to see people being so fascinated with a certain story and it’s very rewarding to help them visit the places where stories like that happened. The joys of a guide.

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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