During my Lindblad Expedition adventure in Arctic Svalbard, I explored by foot, by sea kayak, by zodiac, by gazing from the comfort of the beautiful National Geographic Explorer ship… and as my last entry shamelessly proved with photos – by swimming! Each mode of exploration was important, as they all gave a different viewpoint and perspective.
“Wet landings,” took us from the ship, to the zodiac and a few yards’ walk through the Arctic sea water onto the Arctic tundra land. This was made possible by rental from Ship-to-Shore, whose high boots are insulated and waterproof to -40!
Hikes on the permafrost (soil that has been frozen for 2 years straight) surprised me in a few ways. It was so muddy that my boots even got stuck! The very top layer had thawed (active layer), but not deeply enough to soak up the snow melt. There was also vegetation, including lichens, mosses, and wildflowers called saxifrage. This organic matter was so soft to walk on!
The virtually untippable (even by me) sea kayaks allowed me to comfortably sit right on the Arctic Ocean’s fjords. Our expedition guide only chose the calmest days for this activity, so we could peacefully take in views of the snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and sea ice…. and snap a few selfies!
Zodiac cruises around fjords also gave us explorers a chance to squeeze into spaces that the 368 foot ship could not. Our naturalists would safely circle very small growlers, icebergs less than 16 ft long. Just like children imagining shapes in the clouds, we would marvel over Mother Nature’s ability to seemingly form these ice sculptures, calved from glaciers.
And the glaciers – they looked not so big from the ship. Yet, when I saw another zodiac right next to it, this scale made me realize its massive size. Our naturalist, Bud, estimated this one was 100 feet tall – as tall as a 10-story building!
Hours and hours on the ship gave ample time to search for seals, walruses, whales, and polar bears! Lindblad Expeditions even has an ‘open bridge policy’ where guests can observe right from the captain’s space, and even ask questions about the navigation tools and paths. Captain Leif even let Laura Wommack (a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow) measure the height of another glacier with a sextant – 270 feet high! I would watch the sea ice pass us from the bow, the bridge, windows while dining, and even from the treadmill! Minutes easily turned into hours as Arctic views filled my soul.
Exploring the same location in a variety of ways gives explorers more thorough knowledge and enjoyment of a corner of our amazing planet. In your backyard, lay on the grass, watch it from your window, walk through it during the day and also at night. Whether it’s your local park or the Arctic – get out there and explore in a few different ways!