Written & posted on 11/19/18
Late in the morning, I had briefly settled in to do some writing. The library on the National Geographic Explorer is a glorious window to the world, inspiring and entirely distracting, the landscape was perpetually inviting and ever-changing.
I was overwhelmed by the colors of the Arctic. I've never been more aware of blue, of the variances of blue. Being under the Arctic blue sky was stunning, a sight that we would not experience for the rest of our expedition in the same way. It was as if the Arctic, on our first morning out at sea, was greeting us in all her bright, sun-drenched glory.
We spent the morning in Krossfjorden where we marveled at the Lilliehookbreen Glacier, the mountainous landscape, floating ice, a couple of seals and a tusk-less walrus.
Here's a 45 degree view of this magnificent place. The way the light changed the views in such a relatively confined space was.....awesome.
Now let's get to a seal and a walrus - even from far away
And, a few videos from my morning
Written sometime in September & posted on 11/18/18
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago situated between the mainland of Norway and the North Pole. In 2016, population of Svalbard was 2,667, with over 2,000 residing in the small, northern town of Longyearbyen. (Fun fact: there are approximately 3,000 polar bears in Svalbard!) The infrastructure of Longyearbyen was built primarily because of coal mining, and while mining remains a major industry, tourism and research also play a part in the economy of Svalbard.
Thanks to fellow passenger Pete Benoit for this list of facts about Longyearbyen:
We spent just a few hours in Longyearbyen, getting a few glimpses of how geography shapes life in this remote place before boarding the National Geographic Explorer. Click through the slideshow to read about my day in Longyearbyen!
Written and posted on 11/18/18
We excitedly boarded the National Geographic Explorer, greeted by the hotel manager Patrik Svaerdmyr. We met up with naturalist Edward Shaw who we'd met in Washington DC during orientation and who would look out for us over the course of the expedition. It was lovely to see a familiar face amidst the hustle and excitement. We set sail around 4:30pm and the first few hours on board were busy:
In between the busy, I headed out on the deck to take in the views.
After dinner, we grabbed our coats, gloves and hats and headed outside to for our first hours of marveling at the wonders of the Arctic.
Sitting in the quiet of the library, a glacier up ahead, port side, I was already mesmerized by the light. It was partly sunny and the water is clear with little pieces of ice floating atop. I watched little birds dance on the water.
I spent a couple of hours on deck. At 10:30pm, it was 38 degrees, and it was hard to pull myself away and inside. The light...the light is dreamy, creamy, luminous and soft.
I met Jasper Doest, the Nat Geo photographer on board, on the deck around 10pm. While I was looking though my view finder, he asked me a few questions that went straight from my ears to my brain to my heart. What are you trying capture? What's the story you want to tell? It was my first day in the Arctic, and I was already overwhelmed with what was around me. How do I put this all into words and images?
I can say this - the landscape was dynamic and ever changing with the constant of movement - the water was moving, we on the ship were moving, the clouds were moving, birds flew around us. The sun burst through clouds and she speckled rays of light across the ice, the mountains, the snow, the water. I'd turn my body 45 degrees and see something entirely new and wondrous. And it was my first night under the Midnight Sun.
The story of this night?
Be curious. Be patient. Stay. Stay quietly.
I headed to bed almost at midnight. Here's a view from our port hole right before I tucked myself in.
Finally, here's a little video of my first night in the Arctic.
Written sometime in September & posted on 11/18/18
Friday, May 18, dawned bright. After my epic sleep, I was not 100% over my epic headache, but I was ready for our journey to Svalbard.
First, a nod to salmon at breakfast. Amazing.
We made our way over to the airport for our flight to Longyearbyen. Waiting for our flight, I was grateful to meet some of the other passengers. I was wearing my Nat Geo Educator t-shirt as a not-so-subtle way to identify myself which invited connection and conversation throughout my adventure. I will never underestimate the privilege, opportunities, and invitation being a teacher affords.
The flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen takes 2 hours, 55 minutes to traverse 1,269 miles/ 2,042km. I'd been assigned an aisle seat, but after take-off a flight attendant gave me the OK to move to an available window seat. From there, I observed the world below.
9:31am - we crossed the Arctic Circle at 67 degrees North and 34,720 feet in the air.
9:41am - we left the land below, flying over the Norwegian Sea and the beginning of over 2 hours of flight over open water
10:16am - 72 degrees North
10:50am - 76 degrees North
Land came into view not long before we landed. The skies were grey and we could see patches and streaks of snow. The landscape was dramatically different than anything I'd ever seen. We landed a little before noon at the Svalbard Airport in Longyearbyen, the northern most commercial airport in the world.
Ready to begin this amazing exploration of Svalbard!
Written sometime in September & posted on 11/17/18
Lesson learned: take care of myself so I don't crash (again.) The past 48 hours were prefaced by the end-of-the-school-year bustle, and while my excitement and joy for this adventure was at a 10 out of 10, my body had slower ambitions that resulted in a crushing migraine that took root during the afternoon tour of Oslo and roared to life at the beginning of the evening's welcome dinner. I excused myself before it got real, headed upstairs and undertook 10 hours of sleep.
As a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, I traveled to Svalbard in May 2018! Thanks to Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic for supporting teachers and encouraging us to be explorers.
Some of the text shared here was written in my journal or through social media posts while I was on expedition.
But much of the writing shared here was written in the months following my return home.
I had this idea that I would embark on my journey and, in real time, reflect and write and create blog posts and videos and online albums and photo books and postcards. I had fantasies of sitting in the ship's library with my pen and notebook, collecting and composing what I'd seen and experienced and manifesting deep, profound thoughts.
Yeah. That didn't happen.
My experience was so intense, so surreal, that I had difficulty finding adequate words to describe it all. Silly, inconsequential, and unsatisfying words were all I had - great, amazing, unbelievable, incredible. At the end of each day I would try. After dinner, somewhere between 10pm and midnight, I'd make my way up to the library to write. But I would get distracted. The large, glorious, gorgeous windows were too inviting and each moment was unique. The clouds were shifting, the water was moving, the ship was in motion, the ice upon the water was drifting. Each and every moment was unique.
My eyes were up and wide open. I was outside on the deck feeling the cold air and the lightly falling snow on my face. Or I was sitting on the bridge, snuggled in warmth, with a pair of binoculars looking looking looking. Oh, I tried to shift my thinking to writing something more than a bulleted list, but I just couldn't pull it off.
To put it simply, I couldn't focus.
I coined my condition Wonder-Induced ADD.
It is a beautiful affliction to have.
This blog is dedicated to my aunt, Tina Chavez, who is always my biggest fan and supporter. When I told her about my expedition to the Arctic, she asked, "So, when do you go on the Polar Bear Express?"
She also told me to run fast from the polar bears, but naming this blog "Run, Jen, Run!" isn't as charming as calling it "The Polar Bear Express."