An Arctic Archipelago

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April 17th 2018
Published: May 10th 2018
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“On Earth’s part all days start beautifully. Patiently it revolves and revolves with its trees and oceans and lakes and deserts and volcanoes. The two of us, the rest of you, and all of the animals.” Petur Gunnarsson. One… Whilst staring at the walls of Keflavik Airport, Iceland…

The Phone Call

Theresa and I had just driven halfway across a continent!

From Canada's easternmost province of Newfoundland & Labrador on the wild shore of the Atlantic to the central prairies of Manitoba. Ten hours a day for six days! We'd been back in Winnipeg for less than an hour when my cell phone rang...

"Got plans for the weekend?" Said the operations manager.

"Nothing planned. What's up?" My curiosity raced, as I knew this could be only one of a couple of things.

There was a moment of calm...

"Can you go to Barneo?"


The Realm of Polyarniki

A couple of days later I was in the community of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago at 78° North with four colleagues. The daylight was endless, the air was fresh and energy was high.

We were on a mission - and our days were long and drawn out. We spent several evenings out at the aircraft hangar until three or four in the morning having extended conversations about flight logistics and timings. The constant daylight and coffee kept us functioning.

Lonely RoadLonely RoadLonely Road

The road out of Longyearbyen

In Russia, 'Polyarnik' is a highly regarded term for someone who spends their life in the Polar Regions - basically, 'Polar Man'.

Viktor Boyarski and Viktor Serov are 'Polyarniki'. They were loading the Antonov at the hangar as it was getting ready to make one more cargo run to the Barneo Ice Camp. I spent some time chatting with the two Viktors and their side-kick Margarita.

I asked Viktor Boyarski, "Why is the camp called Barneo?"

"Barneo, like the tropical island. The name is kind of a joke, We all just thought it would be funny to call the camp after a hot place." He laughed.

"Are we still going on the 18th?" I asked the burly Polyarnik.

"Of course, all is going to schedule. The weather is good, the runway is good... No problems."

I am always wary of the statement 'no problems'. Many years of working in the north has taught me that 'no problems' often means 'problems'. Many problems...

I sat with Margarita for a few of hours afterwards, eating cookies and constantly going back to the coffee pot.

"Well the weather is not good, and they are making a new runway as the original runway cracked." Margarita said with hopeful pessimism.

The camp was almost ready for us
Bears at Night?Bears at Night?Bears at Night?

The polar bear capital of Europe.
- the plane had only a couple more freight runs to do.

"It is of great importance that we depart on the 18th." I said, stating the urgency of the situation.

"No problem, they will have the runway fixed in six hours. No problem." Replied Margarita.

On the 18th, indeed, there were no problems.

The AN74 screamed down the runway and flew low over the island group. Massive glaciers and mountain tops gave way to open sea. As we flew northward the sea became more and more ice-covered until eventually the liquid ocean vanished. This icy blanket of Arctic Ocean lay beneath us for the next two hours until we landed on the floating runway of Barneo...

White was all around. It was amazing...

Talking about Breasts

Back in Longyearbyen we had some time to explore this scenically magnificent part of the world. Svalbard is known as the 'Tropical Arctic' due to the relatively mild climate for its latitude - we had temperatures hovering around freezing as we took snow machines up hillsides, climbed inside crevasses, visited mines, and had great conversations...

Including a conversations about breasts...

Steve talked about the night he went to a strip club with his colleague…

He was captivated by her breasts… Or so it seemed.

His colleague told him not to look so intensely at the exotic dancer’s breasts as she may come closer and expect a cash tip. This suggestion fell on to deaf ears… Or so it seemed.

As she danced and twirled, Steve became more and more captivated by the beauty of the girl’s breasts. Or so his story had me believe?

Steve is a retired medicinal toxicologist who specialized in criminal, forensic science. He looks at things differently than most people I guess…

The exotic dancer had a scar beneath her right breast that intrigued him - it looked like a bullet wound.

“I’m not looking at her breasts, I’m looking for an exit wound on her back, as I am convinced she was shot.” Muttered Steve to his perplexed friend…

During our dinner conversation, Steve assured me that he eventually found out that the girl did have a scar from a bullet wound and that his suspicions were accurate…

An interesting conversation! With great food.

Wood pigeon and smoked reindeer-heart pate. And for dessert, chocolate and mushroom ganache - a peculiar combo that really works well!

It was a great week... I even found time to run...


Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


The TeamThe Team
The Team

The Svalbard Team, Ruslan (RU), me, Ian (NZ) and Stefano (IT)
Downtown BouDowntown Bou
Downtown Bou

Caribou in downtown Longyearbyen
The Ice CaveThe Ice Cave
The Ice Cave

A walk through a crevasse.

A chocolate, mushroom ganache with mango ice cream
The Tower CranesThe Tower Cranes
The Tower Cranes

Big construction projects in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

10th May 2018

Streetscape brrrr
Great pic. I've posted this in Streetscapes thread in the Photography Forum. Brrr!
11th May 2018

The Streets
Brrr indeed. None of the streets have names, people just know where things are I guess?
10th May 2018
Bears at Night?

Follow that Road
Great pic. I've posted this in Follow that Road thread in the Photography Forum. Hinting what is ahead if you follow that road, Brilliant.
11th May 2018
Bears at Night?

The road
I drove all roads while in Longyearbyen. All two of them! Thanks for posting in the thread.
10th May 2018
Light at the end of the tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel
Magic shot. Tell me more. Where is this? Also what do they mine?
11th May 2018
Light at the end of the tunnel

Ice Cave
There is a glacier about twenty minutes out of Longyearbyen by snow machine that has an accessible crevasse. The entrance is the snowy tunnel on the picture. the crevasse continues for quite some distance before ending at a sheer drop off. The 'cave' is only accessible during winter as it is full of water during the short summer. There are several coal mines on the island. The town still gets its energy from burning coal.
13th May 2018
The Road to the Mine

What a fantastic drive
The perfect road. Peace and serenity.
14th May 2018
The Road to the Mine

No Vehicles
Much more enjoyable than driving ten hours a day!
13th May 2018

We love road trips. Love them!
Road tripping from Newfoundland to Manitoba would be grand. I'd prefer to do it slower than you did.... but I'd do it at any speed. We all have different interest and I applaud Steve for finding the answers about the gun shot wound. We are all driven in different ways. Smile. MJ
14th May 2018

Slower Drive
We love to do that road trip as an enjoyable few months of exploration. It was more of a 'vehicle relocation trip' than an vacation. Another time perhaps.
23rd July 2018
Bears at Night?

Signs, Signs & more Signs
I've also posted it in "Signs, Signs & more Signs" thread in the Photography Forum...'cos Signs as good as this need to be shared.
24th July 2018
Bears at Night?

Signs, signs & more signs
I will search my archives for some signs. I have a few more classics hidden away.

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