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SVALBARD 2013: INTRODUCTION - Where the foxes don't say goodnight
Views: 4557218.8.2013 00:25:07
I will write about my trip to Svalbard, in series (I hope), in form of a combination of observations and notes, mainly of photographing and circumstances concerning it, and especially about photographing of Polar Bears, because Polar Bears were the main aim of our journey (with Ondra Prosicky) to the northernmost place that can a humble fly catcher visit. And because I have taken more than 300 GB of photos at Svalbard (not counting the deleted data), I will write and gradually upload photos not only of bears but also of some bird species, Walruses, Reindeers and Arctic Foxes, parts of Whales, and I will also try to present some landscapes.

During my trips I have been writing notes for some seasons already. It is not a real diary, more like notes, so I wouldn't forget, or more precisely, so I would remember. Sometimes I write notes on paper, sometimes in a laptop, as it is possible in a given moment, what is on hand, if the electricity is available, etc. When there is electricity and time for writing, I write notes in a laptop in the form of letters to my family. Sometimes I send those, sometimes it isn't possible to do so, as for example now in Svalbard.

Their traditional beginning is:

Hello, my dear girls!

I'm sitting in the lobby of our hotel-hostel in Longyearbyen, the capital town of Svalbard (in Czech more known as Spitzbergen), Norway and I write first notes in the laptop. In the little "hotel" which looks from the outside like a homeless people lodging house, or something hastily build up with a freestyle artistic idea in mind...but in the lobby unexpectedly nice and comfortable. The rooms originally meant for miners are small but clean and a shred of a seal skin rug on the floor completes the style. Undoubtedly distinctive, the hostel has its charm, originating really from the settlement for miners which a "normal" hostel wouldn't have. I'm sitting and writing, because it is eleven a. m. and there is so much light that to photograph doesn't have any sense.

...this is the table with a shade...
One of the first Polar Bears I photographed in Svalbard...

As for the light.

The light is, and I should say, of course, because the sun doesn't set here from 19th April to 23rd August, a real phenomenon here.

We woke up yesterday, it was eleven p. m., the sun was shining a bit less than at midday and so we set to take some photos. "We won't just sit idly when there's light outside..." But one is nevertheless surprised that there's nobody out there. "Well of course, they are sleeping, it is midnight after all," we explained the fact to ourselves.

As newly arrived typical Central European to Svalbard I feel that they should at least be at their jobs because it is daylight... But they are not outside, no one there. And so there is peace for photographing, as thought we were the only living souls there. What's more, and that is important to us, the sun is by midnight in a 10 degrees angle over the horizon (more precisely on 14th August the sun was 9.59 degrees over the horizon). Not so great for the melanin, but perfect for photos.

I began our journey with overweight (of my cabin suitcase, of course), and with the ever present worry that I might be forced to leave some of my equipment to the airport stuff. But I got through. The two hour flight to Oslo was livened up only by my shaking the door of the cockpit in the thought that it is a toilet (they were next to each other), and it didn't struck me in my sleepy state as odd that the symbol on that door was a keyboard and a screen. After an extremely polite warning from a flight attendant I, coming to my senses at last, left the door alone with a stupid expression on my face and I tried the other door instead... they opened easily.

After a three hour long flight from Oslo we landed in Longyearbyen, Svalbard at 01:30 a. m. We slept for a bit, I charged my phone which warmed up and discharged all of sudden. The airport is close, approximately 3.5 kilometres from the town, and because we have our accommodation in the hostel mentioned above booked from 2 p. m., we go to see a colony of Arctic Terns some 300 metres from the airport, thinking we will walk the way to the hostel later.

I photograph, or I tune myself and the equipment. Near the airport I photograph my first Reindeers in the wild, probably mother and her young grazing on a wet meadow in bloom of the northern summer. And Arctic Skua, yawning slightly. But when it is time to set on the way to Longyearbyen and I lift the 40 kilos of luggage, it doesn't seem so short a journey anymore...

Svalbard Reindeer. Smaller subspecies of Reindeer. Svalbard. Norway.

Arctic Skua. In Czech called "parasitic", it is an antropomorphism in a kind of its behaviour considered from the human point of view. Svalbard, Norway.

Before we finally find the little hotel Mary-Ann's Polarigg, we run another kilometre round Svalbard. Curled up under a table outside the little hotel, to be protected from the sun, I sleep the time remaining before we can go to our rooms.
As soon as I get the keys, without even drawing the curtains in our little room, I go to bed again and I don't mind it is two in the afternoon.

We are two days early, our insurance against possible complications during the travelling, lost baggage and etc, so not to miss the departure of "our" ship towards Polar Bears, our main aim here in Svalbard. Those two days of "waiting for the ship" we mean to use for photographing, of course, but our main goal are the Polar Bears, teddy bears (Ondra), or PB as we will be calling them later.

I've been thinking of photographing Polar Bears since my returning from Finland in 2010, where I photographed brown bears. A dialogue on this topic with Ondra Prosicky who hasn't only thought, was unavoidable and pretty naturally led to our journey together.

If you want to photo Polar Bears in their natural habitat or more precisely if you want to photo polar bear wildlife, which can be a difference, it is possible only at few places on the north hemisphere: Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Russian islands in Barents's Sea.

And because it was our intention to photograph those biggest land predators on drifting ice, for polar bears not only natural but also essential habitat, because they search for their principal prey - seals, on this kind of ice, the choice (for many reasons) was definitely Svalbard.

Polar Bear. Curiosity or inquisitiveness is a characteristic that helps the Polar Bear to overcome tough climatic conditions and relative lack of nourishment over the polar circle. Svalbard, Norway.

The Czechs know the islands east of Greenland by its German name Spitzbergen, named by Willem Barents, but Svalbard sounds better to me. They say it means "Cold Coast", it is authentic, much more precise (Spitzbergen is only the largest island) and it seems more witty to me than "Spiky Mountains".

After all, the locals call the islands Svalbard, too:

Author some 1 km east of Longyearbyen. Svalbard. Norway
BN and cult sign "Caution on whole Svalbard". Svalbard, Norway.

By the way, the capital town of Svalbard is called Longyearbyen after Mr Longyear. The "byen" means simply "town"... and it has approximately 1,600 inhabitants out of complete 2,000 on the whole Svalbard (in an area bigger by half than Switzerland, it is not much).

The islands are quite a remote place, but they have electricity and in Longyearbyen at 78° 13' of northern latitude is a web web camera positioned on the Museum of Svalbard.

We were not interested in Longyearbyen and its sights, even though they are not lacking. We were interested in temperatures (5 - 6°C in summer), weather forecast and of course ice forecast (especially the so called red ice) around 80th parallel and possibly further in the north.

And we were interested in the species present around Longyearbyen and the possibilities of photographing them, from local but for us exotic species for example: Common Eider, Purple Sandpiper, Arctic Tern, Arctic Skua, Grey Phalarope, Barnacle Goose. In the town's surroundings you can photograph even more kinds of birds. Not so many mammals, however, maybe only Svalbard Reindeer and Arctic Fox.

Arctic Tern, symbolic. Svalbard. Norway

Arctic Tern. Svalbard. Norway.

Young Purple Sandpiper was one of my first photos in Svalbard. It is interesting that all the adult Sandpipers I photographed had at least one ring... Svalbard, Norway.

Arctic Fox, studio portrait. Even if it doesn't look it, it is a wildlife photo. A kind of "urban wildlife". Svalbard, Norway.

Arctic Fox observing its hunting territory. Svalbard, Norway.

Bohdan Němec, Longyearbyen a Pilsen, July/August 2013

Translation by Tereza Němcova, gwareth.tn@gmail.com

Next: The Krossfjorden Glacier, and my first Polar Bear on ice

Expecting the things to come. Tracks of Polar Bear. Svalbard, Norway.
Comments on article 'SVALBARD 2013: INTRODUCTION - Where the foxes don't say goodnight'
Comment 1-6 / 6
19.8.2013 09:01:06
Clanek je vtipnej, vzdelavaci i roztomilej (ostatne jako vzdy):-) Mne udelaly radost vsechny fotky, nejvic vsak BN a znacka, liska a sob.
20.8.2013 13:40:39
Bohdan Němec
Tak to mělo být: trochu vtipné, trochu poučné...no ano, když si mne jeden představí, jak spím pod stolem...tak i trochu "roztomilé". Se značkou a se mnou vznikla na Svalbardu ještě jedna fotka. Až přijde její čas, zveřejním ji. Každopádně děkuji za pravidelné a shovívavé čtení.
18.8.2013 15:02:51
Petr Pazdera
Bohdane, tak palec nahoru za pokus o převzetí pilotování letadla :D fotky super, nejvíce medvěd s ledoborcem v pozadí a špicberský sob.... díky za fajnový článek a super snímky. PP.
18.8.2013 12:40:17
Michal Mašík
Konečně! Nemohl jsem se dočkat článku a fotografií. Článek je krásně napsaný a fotky jsou super. Sob polární a medvěd s lodí v pozadí jsou úžasný. Liška je taky fajn. Těším se na pokračování.Michl
18.8.2013 20:19:02
Bohdan Němec
Je radost si přečíst od někoho, to co jste napsal. Myslím to "Konečně!..." Doufám, že vás příští díly nezklamou, bude to trochu monotematické: medvěd lední.
19.8.2013 19:44:55
Michal Mašík
Moc rád se sem vracím. Líbí se mi Vaše fotografie. Jsou pěkné a články čtivé. Máte svůj rukopis ve fotografii a to je dobře. Člověk hned pozná čí je fotografie. A ještě něco. Vaše fotky mají zvláštní atmosféru.Aspoň já mám takový pocit.
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