We were heading north. Early in the morning, while I was still sleeping (but not too long after the sunbeam woke me up), we passed 80 degrees north latitude. The 80th parallel north passes through only four countries - Norway (Svalbard), Russia, Canada and Greenland. It passes through the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans in addition to the Barents, Kara, and Laptev Seas. It is surreal to be so far north, in a place where not too many people get to visit.
Besides the birds and the polar bear, we encountered four walruses and we actually spotted another bear that was just too far away and was walking away from us. The wildlife was spectacular but there was more to it - our day was dazzling with ice as we continued to head north. I spent many hours in the cold that afternoon and into the night outside on deck, with intermittent reprieve on the bridge or chart room to warm up and bundle back up for more quiet. More wonder.
It was so much to take in and I've decided to not whittle down the selection of photos I share too much. If you dare to scroll down, you'll see 35+ photos of ice. Lots of ice. Gorgeous Arctic ice.
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."