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The Top of the World

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A Black-legged Kittiwake soars over pack ice in the high arctic off the western coast of Svalbard. This is as far north as our tour boat could take us, just over 80 degrees north latitude, about one thousand miles north of the Arctic Circle and only about six hundred miles from the north pole.

Svalbard is a beautiful Arctic Archipelago located at the top of the world in the Arctic Ocean between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It’s largest settlement, Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost settlement with a population greater than one thousand, is located on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard Archipelago. This is where our journey began.

Longyearbyen Harbour

From Longyearbyen, located at just over 78 degrees north, we sailed north aboard Quark Expedition’s Ocean Adventurer exploring magnificent snow fields, icy landscapes, glaciers, and fjords along Svalbard’s west coast.

Snow-capped Mountains
Glacier Front at Raudfjorden

Exploring the fjords by zodiacs was a highlight of the tour, even getting caught up in the odd snow squall.

Zodiac Adventure

The zodiacs provided closer access to some of the bird life and animal life along the fjords. Including Brunnick’s Guillemot, Glaucous Gull, and flocks of Common Eiders flying along the ice edge.

Common Elders

Northern Fulmars were our constant companions as they flew alongside the ship.

Northern Fulmar

A Humpback Whale was a pleasant surprize. Whales are common in this part of the Arctic, but it’s unusual to see one this early in the season (mid May). It was really exciting photographing this one from a zodiac.

Humpback whale

A curious seal poked its head up out of the water to the delight on our zodiac crew.

A Curious Seal

The Svalbard Reindeer is the world’s smallest reindeer averaging just three feet tall and five feet long. The males shed their antlers during the winter.

Svalbard Reindeer

This Walrus colony was located on Moffen Island just north of the 80th parallel.

Walrus Colony

Travelling to various locations around the world is always exciting. When I arrived home, people would invariably ask about the highlight of the trip. My immediate response was: “Just being there.”

Gary Hall at the top of the world – photo credit: Dave Taylor

Note: If you are interested in purchasing any of Gary’s photography you will find his contact information on the right sidebar.

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