Roald Amundsen took the airship “Norge” over the north pole on May 12th, 1926. While my name has the same number of letters as Roald’s, that is where our similarities end. Forgoing a “Zeppelin”, we elected to join an expedition on the sailing vessel, Antigua. We set sail from the port of a coal mining town named Longyearbyen, in Svalbard. For almost two weeks, we circumnavigated the northwest and northeast margins of this archipelago. Some days brought big seas and others penetrating Katabatic winds off the receding glaciers. One day, we ventured into sea ice, north of Svalbard but sadly, found no floating polar bears.
New to us were walruses, polar bears (on land) and Arctic foxes. Years earlier, we had been with reindeer on South Georgia island and spent time amongst glaciers in Patagonia, Iceland, Antarctica, and Alaska. We will probably never be closer to our melting North Pole.
Our final week in Norway was in Lofoten, in-between Svalbard and Oslo. At this parallel, we had a dark enough sky for Northern lights. Conditions were favorable for solar flare activity and just the right magnetic flux from Earth. Northern lights varied from subtle silvery “clouds” to full-on arcing and dancing multicolored bands. They came at us from all directions and we shot them from within the tidal zone, amidst stoned campers, boulders, and cold surf. Our flooded rubber boots held in the salt water admirably and we packed up our exhausted cameras just after midnight. -Steve