Svalbard – 30 years on

In 1983 I was fortunate enough to spend two months sea kayaking in Spitsbergen, a truly memorable experience.  Whilst there we met a hunter who had a hut located on the northern shores of Bellsund, an area we would be kayaking through as we head towards the southern point of the archipelago.
A couple of nights in a hut, without the worry of being attacked by polar bears was a real bonus.  The hut was a haven of luxury in an otherwise remote wilderness.  During this 4 week section of the trip we didn’t see another person, in those days Svalbard was a truly remote area.
The hunter, Louis after seeing our sea kayaks, decided that this was the type of craft that he needed.  I didn’t really think much more about it until a few months later an immigration official telephoned me from Jersey Airport.  He got straight to the point, we have a man here who says that he is hunter in Spitsbergen and he has come to Jersey so that you can teach him to eskimo roll.  “Is this true”?
I wasn’t in a position to deny this and so Louis entered Jersey and I did teach him to roll.  We met again a couple of months later at the annual Crystal Palace Canoe Exhibition, I introduced Louis to Frank Goodman and he purchased a kayak from Valley Canoe Products and in February 1984 he disappeared back to Svalbard to resume his life as a hunter.
Then out of the blue, tonight Louis called from St Malo and he arrives in Jersey Thursday morning, what an opportunity to catch up on 30 years of life in the arctic.

 The hut where we spent a couple of wonderful days, making full use of the facilities.
 The view from the front door.  At certain times of the year you would need to keep a watchful eye open for roaming polar bears.
The inside of the hut had a range of modern facilities.  Using the cooker was a pleasant change from trying to coax a reluctant primus stove into life.
It wasn’t far to the nearest ice front.  In the evenings we could pass some time shooting the small ice bergs which drifted past on the tide.
Two nights later we were back in the tents.  After nearly 40 years of visiting the arctic this particular place still remains one of the bleakest places I have ever camped.
 One of the real advantages of paddling in the high arctic is that whenever the wind drops off you can go kayaking.  This is just after midnight.  I think that we were in bed by 06.00
 We didn’t always have to paddle at night.  On a couple of the days that we were in Spitsbergen the sun actually shone as we approached one of the many ice fronts.

This ice front was nearly 10 miles wide. Quite a distance to be exposed to calving ice.

One thought on “Svalbard – 30 years on

  • January 9, 2014 at 08:56

    A lovely story & what an adventure!
    Thanks for sharing 😉

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