On the sea ice

As we had no (or little) success in the south, we turned our vessel north. The ice charts show that there was a lot of ice in the North-west corner and that we would only be able to explore a little of the pack ice edge on the northern side of the west coast, but it was still worth a try.

Sea ice at the North-west corner of Spitsbergen

And yes, here we found massive floes of often multiyear pack ice. At the edges there was some thinner ice, probably originating from the fjords, but most of it was quite thick. Which is a good thing, but not for us. It meant we couldn’t penetrate far and had only little room to play with. What was more concerning, for us at least, was the lack of seals and bear tracks. We were on a bear hunt, remember?

Walruses on the pack ice

What we did find, however, were Walruses. We saw several individuals and small groups hauling out on the ice. In summer, there are several larger haul out sites on land nearby, but they are not accessible at this time due to the ice. Besides, Walruses prefer to haul out in smaller groups on ice floes anyhow. For us a welcome change of sight, even though the sea ice itself never ceases to amaze either.

Walrus hauled out on the sea ice

But still no Polar Bears nearby… And with a northernly wind, the ice started to push us south as well. If we didn’t want to get trapped, we better head south and try our luck in the fjords nearer Longyearbyen again.

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.


  • Really enjoyed your polar experiences here, Arjen, with the different kinds of ice, the bear hunt and walrus find. Wonderful photos with big skies, big polar vistas and absolutely thrilling to see walruses.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Bad luck with the polar bears but at least soms great shots of the ice and the Walruses. I know that polar bears get it more and more difficult and their population gets smaller and smaller. This is a frightening thought… imagine if they were to die out completely!
    Hopefully you will still have the opportunity to find polar bears during your trip.
    Lots of succes Arjen.
    Kind regards,


    • Hi Rudi

      Thanks for the reply. As a matter of fact, the Barentsea population (where Spitsbergen is part of) seems to be doing quite well, as far as we know.

      The fact that we had problems on this trip to find bears, was actually due to very favourable ice conditions for the bears. At this moment there is quite a lot of ice around the archipellago, especially in the northern and eastern parts. This is the ice I talk about in this blog post and also the ice that prevents us of going further. But there is a lot of ice out there and much of it will be filled with bears. We can’t just get there (which is our problem, not the bears).

      Now I definitely won’t say there is nothing wrong with our climate and that the polar regions aren’t changing quickly, but our problems finding bears on this trip, are not caused by climate change.

      Cheers, Arjen


      • Thanks for explaining Arjen and so happy to hear that the population at Spitzbergen is doing well. I’m surpriced to hear that there is so much ice around. Is this a natural situation or is it ice comming down from the pole ? Maybe a stupid question but I only know about these regions from documentaries on TV. I hope you can find your way to the polar bears one of these days. Good luck Arjen.


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