|Posted by Tara Mulvany on March 27, 2015 at 12:50 AM|
This feels a little strange to be writing a blog post again. It seems like forever since I’ve been on a big mission, taking each day as it comes, life’s movements decided by the sea and the sky. Without the challenges, beauty and the raw power of being alone in the wilderness, I find it difficult to find the inspiration to write. But now I do, because a new adventure is not far away.
In early June I’m flying halfway around the world to Norway, where I will meet Jaime and PG, and then we’ll fly north together to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. This tiny settlement sits on the western side of Spitsbergen - the main island of this desolate Arctic archipelago. It will be the starting point for our circumnavigation, and from there, we will paddle into an unknown world of sea and ice.
It is a little ironic that last week my local newspaper, The Southland Times, published an article with the headline “Arctic sea ice at record winter low.” The article states that the Arctic ice this year is the smallest since satellite records began in 1979. There is no denying that the ice is melting at an alarming rate, and temperatures in the far north are warming at more than twice the speed as the rest of the world. At this rate the Arctic ice sheet will be completely gone by the end of this century, lost forever.
Although this news and the melting ice improve our chances of success, it is not good news for the wildlife that make the archipelago their home. There are an estimated 3000 polar bears on Spitsbergen alone. These bears will be one of the many huge challenges and threats that we will have to deal with - along with pack ice, endless glacial fronts coated in enveloping fog, and katabatic winds that thunder down from the glacial valleys. These bears are the top of the food chain, the deadliest hunters on earth, and in Svalbard we will be just tiny speckles of colour amongst the wilderness.
Just last week an eclipse-chasing tourist was attacked by a bear on Spitsbergen and saved only by another group member who shot and killed the bear. It’s a brutal reminder of the reality of this wild land that we have chosen to venture into.
Why am I doing this? I’m driven by the desire to explore and experience the remote and untouched corners of the world. I love wild places and Svalbard is as wild as it gets. I want to watch polar bears hunt in the wild, beluga whales surface on a foggy ocean, and caribou dance over barren plains. I want to paddle under towering glacial cliffs and amongst icebergs. I want to push my limits and to paddle where no one has ever paddled before.
This is the sort of adventure I have wanted for a long time. I don’t want to spend forever wondering what it could have been, fear hindering me from living the dream. This is the beginning of our story amongst ice bears and islands, and we want to share it with you. The adventure begins!
We have created a new website where you can follow our trip, www.svalbard.worldwildadventure.com