Expedition in the High Arctic

Expedition in the High Arctic

So this trip starts something like this. You wake up with sunrise and head over to this place called Snoscooterutleie As. And after some training with a mannequin on how not to die in weather conditions of -30C° surrounded by polar bears, they wish you good luck and off you go. But not before you put on an arctic suit, thermo boots, a helmet and start resembling a cosmonaut. You’ll recognise me by a pink backpack.

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It doesn’t take long for everything to freeze over. Especially when you’re driving at 80 km/h. It’s just the first five minutes that are painful: your face hurts. But then you just don’t feel it anymore and start enjoying the view.

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By then my face looked something like this. Two layers of balaclava froze over and became solid. And every time I  pulled up my goggles I had to be careful not to plug out my eye lashes stuck to it.

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Now the good part is that snowmobiles come with heaters. For your bum, feet and fingers. Except mine. Which I found out upon returning back from the trip at the end of the day and listening to my friend complaining that her hands got too hot. To my astonishment. Cause mine almost cracked and fell off. Apparently my heater was broken and didn’t heat shit. But it was too late to cry.

snowmobiles on the Arctic coast

So after driving for some hours through bewildering scenery and overtaking a few reindeers along the way, you arrive to this place called alternative heaven. Or the East Coast, as they call it here. The kingdom of polar bears. 

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We didn’t see any polar bears that day, but we were lucky nonetheless. It was my best friend’s birthday and what a better way to celebrate it than sitting on a shore of a frozen arctic ocean, mere 1000 km away from Geographic North Pole.

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So after some pondering around and taking a few pictures with frozen fingers… you’re like: “Okay, this is nice. I’m hungry.” And like illuminati who just had the best idea of his life that’s shining out of his brain, you go and rack the food sledge. Quite a Birthday Brunch.

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She caught a fish this big. And he wrote his name on the snow. And then we hopped back onto our snowmobiles and went riding over the sea ice towards some crazy formations.

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Keeping in mind there’s an arctic ocean beneath my feet, I planned my steps carefully… with the biggest grin on my face under that mask.

iseberg

That day the weather dropped down to -34C°. Had it gone a few degrees lover, it would have been too dangerous to make the trip. You’re simply on the borderline of being able to protect your body from cold. 

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It was March. So even though you’d get good 10 hours of daylight, the sun doesn’t rise much above the horizon. Yet every little degree it shifts, the colors around you change. Just think about it: everything’s white around you. And white contains all the colors of the visible spectrum. So the only ‘painter’ there is the sun. And what you see is not just white, but all the shades of blue, purple and yellow dynamically interchanging each other… Okay I’m gonna shut up now. Tuna Glacier. 

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This picture was taken around 2pm. We still had about four hours to get home. It started getting hazy with wind picking up and messing with the snow. It was amazing to see how any traces or tracks were erased in seconds. It reminded me watching the dunes of the desert being shaped by the wind. Yet it was far from sand.

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There are no pictures between here and our next stop. But what I experienced was unforgettable. Even though it was getting harder to see with the goggles constantly freezing over… What I saw was the most beautiful thing ever.  Up until now. Regardless of all the other travels. And the adrenaline of riding a snowmobile as fast as you can up the hills and down the valleys, jumping on rough terrain, uplified the experience that much more. At some degree it’s like riding a jetski on rough waters. Except that the waves were frozen. Now you get the idea.   

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One and a half hour later we were back in town. It was 6:30 pm. 10 unbelievable hours spent in the arctic wilderness at the temperature of -34C°. It wasn’t the focus of the camera that was blurry. It was my vision.

 

SURVIVAL TIPS:

– If you’re a girl, you ain’t gonna be able to pee in those 10 hours. Think about that. Taking off your suit and losing body heat is not an option. So you’d better bring that device that lets you do it standing. Yes, that one:)

– You also don’t wanna go there without somebody who knows the area, has a gun and knows how to use it. Yes, just like going into a ghetto. Except that you are the minority. Outnumbered by polar bears.

– Even though the speed of a scooter plays to your advantage: it goes 80 km/h while a polar bear can squeeze out 40 km/h max.

– You’re still not allowed to chase polar bears.

– Driver must be at least 16 y.o. possess a driving license and remain quite sober (below 0.2 is fine).

 

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