I have been going to the North Atlantic since my freshman cruise on a U. S. Navy destroyer escort, the late USS J.W. Blackwood (DE-219). I've traveled to Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the U.K for work numerous times. We've also taken a number of cruises to this area. For some unknown reason, we've been drawn to both Poles more during the last couple of years. This summer, after a couple of days in Tromso, Norway, we sailed on one of our favorite ships, the MS Marina, from Tromso to Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, and back to Iceland en route home. These are uniquely dramatic locations, and I took a lot of pictures. I have tried my best to winnow them down, but for the benefit of my patient viewers, I have separated them into three separate collections: Norway & Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland.
Tromso is in the far North of Norway. It is a beautiful city located approximately 70 degrees North latitude and is one of the three largest cities above the Arctic Circle, in the world. We boarded Marina for a two day sail to Svalbard, also known as Spitsbergen. We anchored off the archipelago's capital Longyearbyren, almost 80 degrees North, and only 800 miles from the North Pole. It is a wild and desolate place: 60% glaciers, 30% barren rock, and a mere 10% vegetation. The Sun does not set from 20 April until 23 August and it does not raise from 26 October until 15 February. Svalbard is nearly 24,000 sq. miles with a population of only 2642, it is one of the most sparsely populated places on earth. There are more polar bears than people, hence the requirement to always carry weapons when leaving town. It is a place that I have wanted to visit for a number of years. This trip was just enough to whet my appetite.
After departing Svalbard, we stopped at two very small ports on the North Coast of Iceland, an area I had not previously visited. While we drove to a couple of the major "Golden Ring" locations, such as Godafoss, the towns themselves were delightfully peaceful and not very "touristy." Unfortunately, Iceland is becoming overcrowded with tourists during the summer. Even these tiny ports, which our smaller ship almost overwhelmed, are getting a large cruise ship almost every day during the summer season. Nonetheless, Iceland is a spectacular location for photography.
We continued westward, to Greenland. For those who haven't traveled to this part of the world will note that Iceland was green and Greenland is largely ice, even at the end of a record setting, warm summer. On our last trip to Greenland, we were blocked from visiting Prince Christian Sound, and a couple of small ports, because of thick ice. This year that was not a problem. It was frightening to see how far the countless glaciers had receded in such a short time. Greenland contains 10% of all the glacial ice in the world. Most of the entire island is glacial ice. After visiting several villages on the South Coast of Greenland, we headed back to Iceland for our flight home.
On the flight, our Captain came over the PA and asked us all to open our window shades and look outside. We were flying over the Greenland Ice Cap and she said that in all her many years of flying over it, she had never seen it that clear. Despite the dirty, scratched plexiglass windows, it was still a sight to behold. I wonder for how long?