Last year when I arrived on Spitsbergen there was hardly any ice to be found around Spitsbergen. Already in early June we could go everywhere we wanted and finding bears was relatively easy as they were all concentrated on the little ice available. This year things are different, completely different. The west coast is free of ice, but the complete northern and eastern shores are locked in ice. This means most of the places we intended to visit during this trip were blocked. And finding bears was very difficult. They had so much ice available to hunt that they could spread out over a fast area. Great news for the bears of course, but bad for us as we now had a far smaller chance of finding one.

Kittiwake in the pack ice

How come that in a warming world we suddenly have a lot more ice? Well, several reasons are possible. First of all weather and climate are connected but not the same. Even with the world warming colder winters will exist, they will only be less numerous. And even though this winter was very warm in the beginning, it became quite cold later on. And finally most of the ice on the pole is very thin so it breaks up quickly. The ice we find here might just have broken from another part and drifted here. Anyhow, at the moment it’s great news for the bears and other wildlife even though it might not last that long as it is very thin.

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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