Arctic garbage men

collecting rubbish on Phippsøya
collecting rubbish on Phippsøya

When I learned I Oceanwide Expeditions offered a trip where one of the goals of the trip was to gather garbage from the beach of Spitsbergen, I wondered who would be interested in a trip like that. Who would pay money to clear the beaches of a place he or she had never been before?

Well, I was wrong. The trip was sold out and everybody was really fanatic in collecting anything that didn’t belong on the beaches of Spitsbergen. Jim, the Expedition Leader, had picked (with help of others probably) beaches that hadn’t been cleaned before and had a lot of driftwood, an indication that things often wash ashore there. This brought us to hardly visited places, like near the German weather station of Haudegen, but also more often visited places like Raudfjord and Phippsøya. Even on the ‘normal landings’, where we just went for a walk, people started to collect garbage. In total we collected nearly 13 cubic meter of garbage, most of it plastic, but we also collected also quite a bit of fishing nets and some empty oil drums. Especially the fishing nets can do a lot of damage, capturing Reindeer with their antlers or sometimes even Walruses.

And the people, they were really satisfied they could not only experience the true wild character of the place and enjoy its wildlife, but also do something in return. I hope this isn’t the last time we offer a trip like this!

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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