Expedition to the Far and Lonely North

A truly amazing sight today: not everyone gets to see the edge of the polar ice cap in their lifetimes; a fact not lost on guests today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”

– Ernest Hemingway

It was nearly at the end of my expedition to Arctic Svalbard aboard Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Explorer when I realized that there were two different mindsets of my fellow guests about the Arctic. While everyone enjoyed it, I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the people onboard found the Arctic a gloomy, desolate place. One guest remarked that our final port of Longyearbyen wasn’t much to look at; another suggested the town council needed to do something to spruce the place up.
I didn’t really understand the need to “spruce up” anything. After all, if everywhere we went looked like Las Vegas, what a terrible world we’d live in.

Today, we got a real taste of the moody, ethereal character of Arctic Svalbard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Guests onboard Silversea’s Silver Explorer get taste of the moody, ethereal character of Arctic Svalbard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

An expedition, by its very nature, is meant to be raw and unfiltered – and Silversea does a magnificent job of presenting the Arctic in all its cold, lonely beauty. Yes, on its monochromatic surface, Svalbard is not a place to be envied. It’s a place that has broken many a tough spirit, unraveled many a strong man and woman. The climate here is so harsh and unforgiving that no one dares to give birth in Longyearbyen; women leave for the safety of Tromsø on the mainland long before they’re due. They say no one really dies on Longyearbyen, and that’s (almost) true as well: the melting permafrost makes burying anyone here an impossibility.
So why did I fall in love with the Arctic? Precisely because of its difference – and because Silversea knows how to present this delicate and foreboding land with the reverence that it deserves.

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