The Arctic has always held a particular fascination for me, as it has for explorers and adventurers for centuries. The great, mysterious polar expanse has long been a place to fear and respect, for the sublime beauty of the natural world at its most raw and wild and the extremity of its environment. The remote landscape and light of the Arctic is soul-stirring stuff; to see with such clarity vast sheets of ice, epic glaciers tearing slowly from mountains to the frigid sea and a galaxy of surreal-shaped icebergs drifting on ocean currents, is special, privileged travel. Truly experience-of-a-lifetime stuff and by far the most spectacular part of the planet I’ve ever seen. I feel privileged to have been in the Arctic more than once and have memories of it like treasure. It always feels like an expedition to travel through here and I get a strong sense of excitement and wonder that I imagine earlier explorers felt too. It’s difficult to capture the grand sense of the Arctic in words. It appeals in equal measure to my scientific, cultural, natural and spiritual self, and it’s hard to isolate one from the other, but there are moments that really stick out in my memory when I understood what it means to be in awe. Watching enormous, city block-sized chunks of ice bust off a glacier and crash into the sea to drift with other such strange formations is an elemental experience of the earth’s natural processes, especially when accompanied by such groaning, cracking and cleaving of ice. To then kayak these waters with whales and seals around you is simply breathtaking. Having several polar bears approach our ship with fearless inquisitiveness, inspecting the hull and pawing at it before jumping between bits of ice floe, sticks in my mind. An Arctic fox pouncing through a high arc to punch through deep snow and catch its prey was an amazing wildlife experience too. I’ve seen this in Svalbard and on Canada’s Boothia Peninsula, and wild herds of musk ox and caribou too. Spotting a colony of walrus on a beachhead that, upon seeing the boat, swim out to cavort was a special treat too. Standing on Beechey Island, wind-whipped and frozen, and imagining Franklin and his men trying to survive and possibly going mad there, really hit home for me. I was thankful marine technology and comfort has come a long way since the 1800s. The icebreaker ships are a wonder to watch, especially from above. The ships have their own helicopters to give you a different perspective – to see broken-up ice floe stretched out to the horizon, the summer sun circling just above, is pretty spectacular. I guess my favourite places though are the great fjords of Greenland. Their epic scale and untouched beauty are awesome to experience. The Inuit communities I’ve visited there are particularly special and I’ve always gained an insight into their life as much as my own after spending time with them. Learning of the environment and its inhabitants, and the earth as a whole, is an absolute joy with onboard experts – the best classroom in the world. Standing out on deck, snug in my parka with other similarly rapt crew and expedition members passing through such a wondrous environment is something I’ll never forget. I’ve photos by the truckload, but as good as they are there is no capturing an experience that for most people who do it the most memorable trip of their life.
"Go out every day do not miss a trip even if the weather dose not look great because it changes and you will miss so much each trip is a new adventure not to be missed"