There is a polar bear in this shot. Never underestimate the magnitude of your surroundings.
It has been some time since my last post and for that I apologize. Life seems to have a way of getting the priority and placing a pause on talking about amazing places.
A refresher! We spent an overcast evening surrounding ourselves with glaciers, mountains, a bonfire, and friends.
We stayed in Alicehamna overnight, sleeping off a our Midsummer for the ages. Our morning landing was on the same beach we anchored at the night before. A short walk up a small ridge gave us a 360 degree view of the fjord and the open ocean. On the top of the hill was a large cairn and an old grave. The grave was marked by a wood cross and was a large pile of rocks. All of the land in Svalbard is permafrost. The rocks are necessary in order to keep the grave intact.
This was a superb exposed rockface and made for a perfect late morning nap. Nemo agreed.
I have been mulling over the focused palette of these landscapes. The cool blue ocean, deep grey rock and a spectrum of chartreuse and ochre flora. I have never been one to add a lot of color into my prints and I feel Svalbard is naturally the color scheme I long for in my work.
Throughout the afternoon we headed to Smeerenburg. Along the way we encountered our one and only polar bear. The bear was walking along the coast of a sheer cliff-faced island. He looked terribly thin and it was difficult to simply pass by when the thought that this bear just is not going to make it was in the back of your mind. We anchored at Smeerenburg for our afternoon landing. This area is rich with history and was the epicenter for the Spitsbergen whale fishery. It was set up as a permanent location by the Dutch in 1619. There are still remnants of the old foundations and wood buildings as well as the many blubber stoves. The whole beach area, littered with whale bones, is a cultural heritage site.
We were lucky enough to visit while two walruses were also lounging on the beach. They were unconcerned with our presence. The same could not be said for the arctic terns which nest on the beach as well. The birds are incredibly aggressive in keeping intruders a safe distance from their eggs. They continually dive-bombed us, pecking at the highest point on our person. To prevent them getting too close to our faces, it was recommended we raise our hands, giving the birds a safer place to snip at.
We left Smeerenburg and made our way to Fjortende Julibukta. We spent the whole next day in the bay, touring with zodiacs and spending time on shore. The bay was relatively shallow, grounding many of the icebergs. This allowed us to cruise right up to the ice since there was far less fear of them spinning. The color of this ice was unbelievable. The overcast sky seemed to mute the landscape, making it a blend of grey, but it allowed the ice to shine.
Bits of ice were scattered on the beach, melting into unusual shapes. Birds floated just above the land and flowers bloomed in their mounds. There was one particular flower that I was excited not only to find, but the one on this beach was a perfect specimen.
The compass flower grows in a perfectly circular mound. The small pink flowers bloom, for the first part of summer, on the half of the plant facing North. For the latter half of summer, the plant flowers facing South. It is remarkably accurate.
This could make a pocket compass about as useful as the compass tattoo on my arm. Do you need to find your direction magnetically? Simply look to your feet and you will your way.
Artwork is taking shape. Look for an update and images of some maquette pieces and in-progress final works with my next post.
Thanks for your patience - more trip, more pictures, more art will be headed your way.