Cruising Through Polar Bear Country in the Barents Sea

A timelapse I shot while our ship was punching through the polar ice pack in the Barents Sea near Sjuøyane, Svalbard.
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On a recent trip to the Arctic I decided to stick a GoPro on one of the ship’s rails to capture our progress punching through the polar ice pack as we got north of Svalbard.

This drifting sea ice is the summer home of polar bears and the seals they feed on. And that’s why we were here–to find them (and we did).

Further north, the ice is packed in tighter and thicker, but along the edge of the ice pack like this, it’s entirely untethered and drifting in the winds and currents. One night we even drifted along with the ice pack with the engines off (I also captured that on time lapse and will post it separately). Because the ice moves so much, the Norwegian Ice Service issues daily ice charts that are essential reading for safe navigation up here.

I took this while we were off the coast of Sjuøyane, a group of seven islands at the northernmost tip of Svalbard. Svalbard itself is an archipelago in the Barents Sea well north of the Norwegian mainland. ⠀

The ship is the Polar Pioneer, a Russian ship under long-term charter by Aurora Expeditions. While it isn’t a true icebreaker–that’s a specific kind of design that’s quite different–it does have a class 1A ice-strengthened hull, so it can go places most ships can’t.

The time lapse makes it look like we were moving fast, but that’s deceptive. Even with a strengthened hull, it can still be very dangerous just crashing into ice. As you can see, some pieces of ice are thicker than others, and from time to time some brought us to a sudden halt. The fastest we were moving through this area was 3 knots, and the captain and crew up on the bridge were on high alert the whole time.

Photos

Here are a few photos from the same area.

Svalbard with a GoPro HERO5 Black
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Polar Bear
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Arctic Sea Ice
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Arctic Sea Ice
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Arctic Sea Ice
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Svalbard with a GoPro HERO5 Black
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Arctic Sea Ice
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Arctic Sea Ice
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

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Where to Next?

Guidebooks for Norway

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Norway. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Fodor's Essential Norway (Full-color Travel Guide)
  • Fodor's Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Lonely Planet Norway (Travel Guide)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Planet, Lonely (Author)
DK Eyewitness Norway (Travel Guide)
  • DK Eyewitness (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Rick Steves Scandinavia
  • Steves, Rick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Norway

I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.

But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.

These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Norway :

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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