Chasing Polar Bears In Svalbard: DDF Arctic Adventure Photo DO Trip Notes, Part 2

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Moishie Hersko: It’s been nearly 3 years since Dan posted the first part of this trip report, so I’m going to give Dan a hand and take over the trip report from here.

In the grand tradition of shameless plugs, see this DDF thread for a list of all my trip reports, and follow this thread to be the first to know when I announce an upcoming adventure.

A note about pictures: all pictures in this segment were taken by me, except where noted otherwise. And some of the lower-quality pictures are actually screen-grabs from GoPro footage.

Note by Dan: Moishie (known as Something Fishy on DDF) was my partner in creating the 2018 Kosher Antarctica expedition, and yes, the rest of that trip report will be written soon enough. Back in 2016 I went to the far north with Moishie and 3 other DDF (DansDeals Forum) members – Chaim’l, whYME, and moish. This trip report will be told from Moishie’s perspective and all writing in this post from him can be found in plain font, with notes from myself and other members in italics. whYME also created this trip report format with larger pictures than normal and a new font. Please post a comment with your thoughts about this format versus the normal format with smaller pictures and whether you are using a desktop or mobile device.


Monday, March 7, 2016:

So last we heard Dan left us with a cliffhanger in the airport in Tromsø, where we had stopped in order to go through passport control. If you haven’t figured it out in the last two years, Dan did find his passport in the end, only in a different pocket than he expected. As so, without any further drama, we were off on the final flight of the day: Tromsø, Norway to Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

Note by Dan: While Moishie took his leisurely time to fly to Tromsø with overnights in London and Oslo, I was in middle of 3 exhausting flights and found myself ripping apart my belongings looking for my passport during our technical stop in Tromsø. Normally I always slip it back into the passport pocket of my laptop bag and have never misplaced it, but due to the Photo DO I was lugging a camera backpack on loan from B&H Photo that didn’t have my usual passport pocket. The plane would be taking off in minutes and all I could do was picture my predicament about being stranded in Tromsø as the rest of the group had proceeded onto the plane.

After I emptied out all of my bags it finally hit me. At the end of my flight from Newark to Oslo I had put on the North Face Denali Fleece that I had bought for the trip to the far north. Sure enough there in its pocket was my passport. After letting out a massive sigh of relief I boarded the 4th and final flight that would take us to Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

 

Departing Tromsø:

Approaching Longyearbyen:

Photo by Dan

After a short 1 hour and 35 minute flight we had arrived at the northernmost airport on Earth:

Photo by whYME

Longyearbyen Airport terminal:

Visible just over the cockpit’s windows is the entrance to the Svalbard Seed Vault, aka the Doomsday Vault, built into the side of a mountain:

The big question now was whether or not our luggage will show up. No one in Oslo had known clearly if the bags will be checked through to Longyearbyen or not, and now the moment of truth had arrived.

Note by Dan: After being told 3 times at Oslo baggage claim that we didn’t need to recheck our bags we left without them, but it turned out that since our flight made a technical stop in Tromsø we did need to recheck them. The bags were at the mercy of the SAS baggage agent who had misinformed us about the requirements in Oslo. We were not allowed back into that area, but supposedly she had been told that she gave us bad info and was told to check our bags for us.

We stood nervously beneath the giant taxidermied polar bear gracing the luggage belt, and then heaved a sigh of relief when one bag of ours after another appeared. Between food for ten days, a ton of extreme weather clothing, and all our camera gear, we had nearly 30 bags between us. Wonder of wonders, they all made it.

We headed outside to find a taxi, and were greeted with the first of many polar bear warning signs. Only 18,692 kilometers to the South Pole:

It wasn’t long before a taxi pulled up. The driver – who looked like he had just stepped out of an 18th-century storybook – got out, looked at the five of us, looked at our absolute mountain of luggage, and said, “HOW many weeks are you staying here?”

After a good deal of shoving, rearranging, and some more shoving, we had gotten everything and everyone into the van.

It was a short ride from the airport to our Airbnb, which was quite literally mere feet from the Arctic Ocean:

Dan’s note: We didn’t have an address, but our driver knew exactly where to take us when we mentioned the name of the Airbnb. There is a Radisson Blu points hotel in Svalbard, but the reviews were middling, it’s expensive, and we would need 2 or 3 rooms there. So we took advantage of 50% off Airbnb with AMEX Offers and got a bargain Airbnb for the 2 nights that we would spend in Svalbard.

Fun fact: Svalbard has some of the fastest internet in the world thanks to undersea fiber optic lines that cross the island. And my Nexus 6 had wonderful 4G service thanks to Google Fi.

It’s worth noting that from April through August the sun never sets in Svalbard. It’s sunny all day and all night long. From October through February the sun never rises. It’s dark all day and all night long.

The only full months with sunrises and sunsets are March and September. And even within those months the time of sunrise and sunset changes by more than hour with each passing week!

We went in March. We missed out on the experience of a full day or darkness or light, though by going in March or September you can avoid all kinds of halachic questions such as when is Shabbos and when do you pray. We also got to experience Svalbard’s winter and otherworldly tundra, without it being too cold.

Priority number one was to organize and pack away our food. We were coming from five different cities across three continents, and each of us had all been in charge of a different food department. We had Pom meals from Dan which were left over from his Island Hopper trip with AJK and were only a little freezer burned. Chaim’l brought a pile of Hermolis meals from London, which was thoroughly delicious. whYME procured a massive hunk of ribs and brisket from Izzy’s BBQ in Crown Heights. I brought a load of cold cuts and 6 pounds of rugelach and challahs from Shloimy’s. And moish brought a metric ton of cod liver.

In addition to all that we had countless snacks, Tradition soups, wraps and breads, tuna, condiments, and whatnot. For Shabbos we went all out with wines, dips, gefilta fish, chicken soup, cholent, cakes, the whole shebang.

Just some of our haul, with the Arctic Ocean right outside our window:

Just one of the hunks of meat from Izzy’s, all dressed for travel:

Only one problem: there was no way we had room for all this in our Airbnb. But no worries: Chaim’l had an epiphany, and before long we were outside digging a hole in the snow to store all our frozen food:

Note by whYME: Among the mountain of food and gear Moishie lugged along, was one thing you wouldn’t expect on a photography adventure trip to the far north: a shtreimel. Aside from Moishie’s usual minhag of taking along a shtreimel on trips over Shabbos, he was not about to pass up the opportunity to likely be the first person ever to wear a shtreimel this far north. In the course of our unpacking, I picked up the shtreimel and joked that I would put it on and be the first one wearing a shtreimel in Svalbard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone move as fast as Moishie jumping off the couch to snatch the shtreimel from my hands and ensure that he would indeed be the first. I’ve never seen a human shot out of a cannon, but I imagine Moishie launching off that couch is a good approximation 😁.

With it now safely in his control he wasn’t gonna put it back down and leave anything to chance. And here you have it, likely the first time ever a shtreimel was worn in Svalbard, and most likely the record for the northernmost shtreimel ever worn. It may have been Monday and all, but that is completely beside the point:

Photo by whYME

After settling in we headed out to explore town a bit. First, a few pictures of the Arctic Ocean just outside our door:

Photo by Dan
Photo by Dan

That’s our Airbnb, literally right on the beach:

Photo by whYME

Longyearbyen really milks the fact that they’re the northernmost town on Earth:

Photo by Dan

Heading up the main street towards the supermarket to get some drinks for dinner:

Photo by Chaim’l

Only about 2000 people live here, mostly in employer-provided housing such as these color-coordinated cabins owned by the local coal mine:

Polar bears on Svalbard outnumber people 3 to 2, and so it is illegal for anyone to leave the settlement without a rifle and the knowledge of how to use it. Walking into the supermarket, the first thing you come across is a couple of gun safes and a polite sign asking you to please stow your rifles while shopping:

Oddly enough, the local bank has no such rules, and so Svalbard is probably the only place on Earth where you can march into a bank wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun, and demand cash without anyone batting an eyelash.

Shopping duly done (we decided against robbing the bank in the end), it was back home to a hot meal.

Note by Dan: One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear religious Jews complaining about how there are so few exotic places to visit due to the need to have kosher food. There’s no need to live off tuna fish for a week; just double wrap food from a restaurant or kosher counter at your local grocery and you can have a hot meal anywhere in the world. The frozen food I brought along in my Polar Bear 48 Pack Cooler were all still frozen solid after 4 flights without any ice in the bag. And so, thousands of miles from the nearest kosher restaurants we enjoyed delicious short ribs and southwestern fried chicken cutlets from Pomegranate Deli:

DSC03233.jpga
Photo by Dan
DSC03237a
Photo by Dan

After eating it was time for an early bedtime – tomorrow was going to be a long, cold, and physically draining day. So it goes without saying that as soon as we were all settled and drifting off, I peeked out of the window and caught a glimmer of green in the sky. Experience has taught me that when you see the Aurora Borealis, you don’t waste time dawdling – you never know how long a display may last, and when a tiny glimmer will explode into an all-sky light show. We had made up earlier that if someone spots the aurora he would wake the others, and so I jumped out of bed, pulled my boots and coat over my pajamas, grabbed my camera and tripod and ran out of the house, all the while raising the alarm.

The other guys, meanwhile, were not keen on leaving their warm and comfy beds for the Arctic night just yet, and so wisely decided to wait and see if the glimmer will turn into a real display. I say wisely, because unfortunately, as soon as I got outside the glimmer faded away, never to reappear. I did however get to check “stood outside near the North Pole in the middle of the night in who-knows-what-below-zero-degrees in my pajamas” off my bucket list, so there’s that. It was a while before the others quit laughing at me and we all settled back down for bed.

I have an awesome picture taken from outside of Dan in his PJs in bed laughing at me, but he says that if I post it here he’d have me killed – or worse, expelled.

Note by Dan: My recollection here is a bit different than Moishie the muggle’s. Svalbard is north of the Northern Lights belt in Norway and I wasn’t expecting to see any Northern Lights, but Moishie, ChAiM’l, and whYME were on patrol for the lights that night. I couldn’t quite fathom how they were not exhausted after all those flights and I tried to sleep, but had a rough time due to the cacophony outside the room. Luckily I had my Bose noise-cancelling headphones and quickly fell asleep after slipping them on. Alas sleep didn’t last long. Moishie started banging on the window to run outside to see the Northern Lights.

There is no running outside in Svalbard though. With the temperature in the negatives and a sheet of ice everywhere it took a solid 5 minutes to properly bundle up and by the time I got outside the display was gone.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

It was way too early on Tuesday morning when our alarms woke us. We were heading out bright and early today on the ultimate of wildlife quests: seeing a polar bear in the wild. There are very few places where you can see one of the greatest predators on Earth in its natural habitat, and Svalbard is one of them. In order to give us even a chance of seeing a bear, we would need to travel to the island’s east coast and to the edge of the sea ice. There are no roads outside of the settlement, and so we will be traversing the trackless wilderness on snowmobile. And once we’re out there, there is no guarantee that we’ll even glimpse a bear; this is nature, not a zoo. But we were going to give it a shot.

Sunrise view from our window:

Photo by Dan

Mountains across the bay:

The high Arctic in the winter is not something to be trifled with; if you are ill-prepared, chances are that you will die. We therefore davened Shachris, ate breakfast and prepared lunch, and walked the 100 feet or so to our outfitter Better Moments to get geared up and to meet our guide.

Note by Dan: The shorter and less grueling option was to drive west to Barentsburg, a mostly abandoned Russian mining town in Svalbard, but the 200 kilometer trip to the East Coast to find polar bears sounded more compelling.

The cold this morning wasn’t completely ridiculous, maybe in the 20s or so. But when you’re going to spend 12 hours on a snowmobile, exposed to the wind and the elements, you need full survival gear. We each had on a thermal base layer (shirt, pants, socks, balaclava) and a warm mid-layer, and then a full-body water- and windproof snowmobiling suit, the latter of which was provided by the outfitter. They also equipped us with boots rated to -40°, special snowmobiling mittens, a helmet and goggles. By the time we were all bundled up we looked more like astronauts than anything else:

Taken by a snowmobile-mounted GoPro during a break later in the day

Our guide – a British outdoorsman with the very Scandinavian-sounding name of Yann – also towed a trailer sled full of emergency equipment: a satellite phone, avalanche gear, GPS and paper maps, compass, spare parts and fuel for the snowmobiles, emergency bivouac kit, first aid kit, heat bags, and so on. He was also armed with a flare gun should a bear get too close, and, as a last resort, a high-powered rifle.

Getting set up on the snowmobiles:

Photo by Dan

After a short lesson on operating the snowmobiles and communicating using hand signals, we were on our way.

As soon as we left the town, we entered a world of white. Nothing but snow and ice as far as the eye can see; on the ground, on the mountains, and covering the glaciers. This is a silent world, save for the roar of the wind and the hum of the snowmobiles. White below you, white around you, and the bright blue sky above.

 

We had around 50 miles or so to cover until we got to the east coast, so the next few hours were spent in pure bliss. Long stretches of snowmobiling were interspersed with breaks every now and then. We grabbed a bit of (mostly frozen) energy bars, took pictures, or just plopped down on the deep, soft snow for a quick rest. The weather, thankfully, was lovely: low 20s, barely any wind, and mostly sunny.

Photo by Chaim’l

Shooting the amazing landscape:

Photo by whYME

Adjusting one of the GoPros before starting up again:

 

After a few hours we descended a hill and began driving over one of the massive glaciers in the area. This was our sign that we were firmly in polar bear territory, and so our guide stopped us for a final safety briefing and to load up his gun. Under no circumstances were we to move more than 10 feet from our snowmobiles, which were to be kept idling during breaks. We were not to lose sight of each other, even though till now we had been driving in a fairly long column with sometimes significant distances between us. From this point on, Yann wore both his guns on his body, locked and ready.

Loading up:

It was around now that sunset began, and it would be with us for hours – one of the many weird and wonderful features of the high arctic. It was extremely subtle – a slight dimming of the light, a light tint in the sky – but it made this magical landscape even better.

A while later we reached the face of the glacier – from above:

Yann on the lookout for bears:

Photo by Chaim’l

After a minute or two Yann jumps up, drops his binoculars, unpacks his spotting scope, and lets out a whoop. Success! Our first polar bear had been sighted. Sure, it was a mere speck on the horizon, and you couldn’t see it without the aid of the scope, but hey – it’s was a real-life polar bear, in the wild. We decided to head down the glacier and skirt along the sea ice in the hopes of getting closer.

So began an arduous decent along the edge of the glacier, slowly picking our way around massive rocks and icebergs, and moving up and down ridiculously steep hills. All this was covered in literally feet of fresh snow, so stopping was the worst thing you can do. At one point one of us came to a stop while climbing a steep grade, and could not get enough traction in the powder to get going again so a couple of us had to stop and help him dig out. The guide’s trailer flipped over as well at this time, so all in all it was one of my personal favorite parts of the day.

Of course, while we’re doing all this shouting and stomping about, we are keenly aware that we are in a fairly dangerous position. Should a bear suddenly appear, we couldn’t get going in time and would need to shoot it. Considering we were navigating the bottom of an icefall, there was extraordinary little visibility all around, and a bear could swiftly and silently sneak up on us. And we knew that they were around – huge, 12-inch paw prints surrounded us, the marks of the 3.5-inch claws plainly visible.

Eventually we came clear of the glacier and were able to proceed at a slightly faster clip along the coast. And I use the word “coast” loosely here –  there was no obvious boundary between the snow-covered land and the snow-covered sea ice. Off in the middle distance we could clearly see the huge icebergs trapped in the ice, and even a bit of open water – but there was no way of discerning where the solid ground ended and the dangerous sea ice began. And this was important – a few days before, a snowmobile had fallen through the ice here and the driver needed to be airlifted. Clearly, the ice was no longer safe this year.

But this is where our guide came in: he skillfully led us along the very edge of land, as this GPS trace of the trip shows:

We all had our eyes peeled for the bear we had seen earlier, and lo and behold, it wasn’t long before someone shouted “Bear!”. This was a second bear, and closer than the first one. Still mostly a speck, but at least you didn’t need a scope to see it with.

We quickly stopped, and frenziedly began setting up our tripods and cameras. In all honesty, we were kinda disappointed with our long-distance bears, but at least we could try to get a picture of one.

Until…

 

I believe it was whYME who saw it first: right in front of us, at around 800 yards, lay a mother bear with her cub on an iceberg. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Bears number 3 and 4 – clear and relatively close. These were no far-off phantoms; they we just chilling there in plain sight, apparently resting after a good meal. Every now and then the male cub would sit up and look around, while the mother mostly napped. They looked at us a couple of times, but completely ignored our presence. Apparently they’ve already had dinner that night.

I’m not going to go all hyperbolic and say that this was a life-changing experience, but it sure was close. This isn’t Churchill, Manitoba where the bears are attracted to the garbage dump outside town, and you are watching them from behind a protective barrier; this is real, raw, and untouched. The bears here are solitary or in pairs, and command vast territories as their hunting grounds. You are in the bears’ backyard and you gotta play by their rules. Being able to observe them doing their thing in the Arctic vastness was truly awe-inspiring:

Photo by Chaim’l

Photo by whYME

We watched the bears for a while, but unfortunately we needed to get going and begin heading back to Longyearbyen.

We headed further along the shore for a bit, before turning inland along a different route than we had taken out:

As soon as we turned inland, we faced a massive barrier: a glacial face towered nearly 100 feet above us. Sheer mountains hemmed in the glacier on both sides, so the only way to go was straight up. Luckily the face was somewhat “stepped”, so the plan was made to kinda leapfrog up one level at a time. The trick is to gather enough momentum on the flatter parts and then go flying over the nearly-vertical ones. If you stop midway, there’s no way you’d make it over the way and you’d need to start over.

We eventually all made it up – and right into a massive fog bank.

It was a solid wall of gray; we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. Our guide considered the situation and determined it was safe to proceed: he knew the glacier intimately, his GPS would keep us on track, and polar bears don’t often climb glaciers. And so we found ourselves driving for nearly an hour without seeing a blessed thing, crawling slowly behind the taillights of the snowmobile in front of us.

Powering up a nearly-vertical face:

Watch our ascent and see @whYME catching some air, before heading into the fog:

Spoiler alert: that snowmobile did roll over, as did a couple others. It wasn’t really unsafe, as we were moving very slowly and at worst you got dumped into several feet of soft powder. But as we helped the latest guy right his capsized ship, we made fun of him mercilessly, until of course it was our turn to go floop and suddenly it wasn’t quite as funny.

Typical visibility; watch the video above to get a way better feel for what we were driving through:

And then, as we neared the edge of the glacier – all of a sudden – the fog lifted and we burst into a spectacular sunset. The arctic sunset is a beauty to behold, the sky an ever-changing pallet of subtle hues. There was barely a cloud in sight; towards the setting sun the sky was layered in orange and purple; opposite that were shades of pink and blue.

You can see the fog bank we just crossed off the the left:

Photo by whYME
Photo by whYME
Photo by Chaim’l

Soon we came to the end of the glacier (or beginning, in fact, considering we were moving inland), where we climbed the final slope towards the mountains beyond. Looking back at the glacier, the pink Belt of Venus and the dark blue Dark Segment are clearly visible on the horizon – this is the Earth’s shadow being projected on the atmosphere:

Photo by whYME

Leaving the glacier:

Over the mountains and into the valleys, as it got darker and darker. Considering that everything was covered in white, there was still plenty of light to see by. By and by we spotted a couple of Svalbard reindeer, which are endemic here and live nowhere else:

Getting darker:

And finally, 12 hours after leaving, we found ourselves back in town, drained beyond belief but completely exhilarated.

Note by Dan: Spending an entire day on a snowmobile was one of the most grueling activities I’ve ever done, but it was indeed quite rewarding. One of the difficult parts was actually dealing with the helmet visor that kept freezing over, making it very difficult to see. After the enormous relief of getting back to the city, Moishie pointed out that there was a faint Aurora Borealis in the sky, but we were all too wiped to try to take pictures of it.

Our gear was frozen solid, but all survived the elements in the end:

Some of the guys went to eat, but whYME and myself just passed out:

Photo by moish

Tomorrow was going to be another long day.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

We slept like dead men, only to wake up way too quickly in time for another early-morning adventure. We were going to experience another arctic staple – dog sledding. This promised to be way more relaxing than snowmobiling, which was important considering we were so sore from yesterday that muscles we didn’t even know existed were hurting us.

Note by Dan: How sore were we? 4 out of the 5 of us voted to try to cancel the dog sledding as all of our extremities ached. But we weren’t about to lose our deposit, so onward we went!

Promptly at 8AM we were picked up by Svalbard Husky, and driven to their office in town for yet another gear fitting. We got similar suits as we did yesterday, along with boots, mittens, and warm hats.

Suiting up, with an absolutely adorable husky pup supervising the operation:

Once properly attired, we piled back into Svalbard Husky’s beaten up Land Rover and headed out of town to the dog yards:

Driving through the anti-polar bear fences:

Photo by whYME

Every dog has their own doghouse, and belongs to a preset sled team:

We were given a demonstration of how to place a dog in the sled harness, and then each of us got the name of the dog we will harness ourselves. I can’t speak for the others, but harnessing and interacting with these dogs was one of the most enjoyable parts of this trip.

Note by whYME: You’re most certainly not speaking for me there 😡.

These dogs are bred for pulling sleds and are extremely powerful – but also extremely friendly. They know very well that when people come towards them holding a harness it means that they’re going out pulling, and so they go into a complete frenzy as soon as they spot you. The yard went from nice and quiet to complete mayhem as we approached the dog houses. Yapping as loud as they can, they would strain against their chains trying to jump onto you, clearly saying “pick me, pick me”!

Photo by Chaim’l

These guys are so powerful, that once unchained, it was more of them dragging you along the snow than you guiding them. Here’s poor Chaim’l trying his best to control his beast:

It took over half an hour to get our teams harnessed, as we were having way too much fun playing with the dogs. But eventually we headed out:

Photo by moish

Each team consisted of six dogs, with the two front ones leading. We were two to a sled, with the first sled being shared with our guide, who was of course armed against polar bears. We each took turns driving (aka standing on the runners in the back and managing the dogs’ speed via a foot brake) and relaxing in the front of the sled.

This experience was a polar opposite than yesterday’s snowmobiling. We were moving relatively slowly, gliding along the soft snow. And while the dogs kept up an ear-splitting racket when stopped, the instant the brake was released they went completely silent. It was an exhilarating feeling, wrapped snugly against the bitter cold, lying on a sled being pulled through the arctic landscape in utter silence:

 

Stopping to switch driver and passenger positions:

Photo by Dan

A couple more Svalbard reindeer:

Note by Dan: This experience was serene and relaxing. Despite the aching limbs, I enjoyed every second of it!

After two hours or so it was time to head back. As we approached the dog yard, we stopped for a moment while our guide opened the gates. Dan called across to moish to take a picture of him, so moish took both his hands off the sled and turned around. Unfortunately for moish though, the dogs chose that moment to begin moving again, whereupon he went flying (into soft snow, fortunately). whYME captured the moment on his GoPro, to general amusement:


Stopping at the famous polar bear warning sign at the edge of town – Gjelder hele Svalbard: Applies throughout Svalbard:

Note by Dan: Nothing like traveling with 6’8″ giants to make you feel tiny:

….And then it was time to say goodbye to this amazing place and head back to the airport for our flight back to Oslo.

The entire departures area is just one large room:

Off to the plane:

Photo by Dan

A Norwegian search and rescue chopper preparing for takeoff:

Ridiculously amazing views after takeoff:

Photo by Dan
Photo by Dan

 

The extent of the “business class kosher meal” from Longyearbyen to Oslo – supplemented by our own wraps:

Photo by Dan

And so our Svalbard adventure came to a close – but the trip is not yet over: we were off to Norway’s spectacular Lofoton Islands.

Or, at least that was the plan. As with the outbound flight, no one had any idea when and where we will go through customs. As it turned out, that answer was “Oslo”. But as soon as we landed, we knew that between having to collect our luggage, go through immigration and customs, and recheck ourselves and our bags for our flight to Bodø, there’s absolutely no way that we were going to be able to do all that during our 45 minute connection.

Note by Dan: This was my 13 flight segment itinerary for the trip:

1. Su, 3/6, UA4249, CLE-EWR, 2:30pm-4:10pm, Coach, ER4
2:45 connection in Newark
2. Su, 3/6, SK908, EWR-OSL, 6:55pm-8:15am, Business, 333
2:25 connection in Oslo
3. Mo, 3/7, SK4414, OSL-TOS, 9:55am-11:45am, Business, 738
0:35 tech stop in Tromsø
4. Mo, 3/7, SK4414, TOS-LYR, 12:45pm-2:00pm, Business, 738
Stopover: 2 nights in Longyearbyen/Svalbard
5. We, 3/9, SK4491, LYR-OSL, 1:50pm-4:45pm, Business, 738
0:45 connection in Oslo
6. We, 3/9,  SK348, OSL-TRD, 5:30pm-6:25pm, Business, 738
0:40 connection in Trondheim 
7. We, 3/9, SK4576, TRD-BOO, 7:05pm-8:05pm, Business, 736
0:40 connection in Bodø
8. We, 3/9, WF816, BOO-LKN, 9:00pm-9:25pm, Coach, DH2
Stopover: 5 nights in Leknes/Lofoten Islands
9. Mo, 3/14, WF827, LKN-BOO, 6:10am-6:35am, Coach, DH2
6:05 connection in Bodø/Saltstraumen Maelstrom
10. Mo, 3/14, SK4111, BOO-OSL, 12:40pm-2:10pm, Business, 73G
2:00 connection in Oslo
11. Mo, 3/14, SK830, OSL-CDG, 4:10pm-6:35pm, Business, 73G
Stopover: 2 nights in Paris
12. We, 3/16, UA56, CDG-EWR, 9:25am-1:00pm, Business, 772
2:03 connection in Newark
13. We, 3/16, UA1801, EWR-CLE, 3:03pm-4:44pm, Business, 739

Today we would be flying segments 5 through 8, which were some of the riskiest connections we had on the trip. In Longyearbyen airport I asked the checkin agent if she might be able to move us onto the nonstop flight from Oslo to Bodø, but she said that would not be possible as we had United issued award tickets. I like to always have a contingency plan, so I asked her how many seats were available on that flight and she said that there were only 4 seats left. That meant that if we missed that connection one of us would be left behind overnight in Oslo.

To be continued….

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27 Comments On "Chasing Polar Bears In Svalbard: DDF Arctic Adventure Photo DO Trip Notes, Part 2"

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Bruce Goldenberg

wonderful pics of the trip. thank you for sharing. just to breath that air and hear the silence is amazing.

Bracha

This is amazing!
I will say that I laughed out loud at this line – “he’d have me killed – or worse, expelled”

Joe

It’s Hermione’s line

Cholentfresser

Amazing!!

A.b.

Who’s watching the kids?

Lord Dima

Mama bear

zow

Amazing trip. Love the large-pic format.

M

What an amazing experience and a great write up.
As per your request
1.This new format is great
2. like the bigger pictures
3. Read it on my phone

BCL

+1

etech0

“We had Pom meals from Dan which was left over from his Island Hopper trip with AJK and was only a little freezer burned.” -> It should say ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ both times in this sentence. Unless there was only one meal…

Great TR!

United

Please don’t make us wait 3 years for the full southernmost trip report.
Film gets developed a lot faster nowadays

Joe

1 hour photo is still the gold standard, no?

Eli

Larger picks is a good idea, fonts I’ll choose your regular one.
What an amazing adventure!

YE

+1

Work-for-ur-muny

Wow! This is great stuff!!!
Dan, this format is superb. (Viewing on pc browser)

Abey

Bucket list just grew longer (sigh)..

Ruv

Just WOW!

I like the new format, but prefer the regular fonts.

Joel

Looks like you had an amazing trip!

Beirish

Amazing. You see the beauty of the Aibishter’s creation. Ma rabu maasecha…. Thanx for sharing.

Dina

Great stuff! First read on phone, it was fine. Glad I went back and checked on computer, it’s a totally different experience with the huge pics!

Lord Dima

Enjoyed reading this as well but mostly without pictures as Tmobile’s 2G isn’t keeping up with them outside the US.

I did my own hop across half a dozen spots in Norway on a one way United ticket few years ago. Adding Longyearbyen to it would have been impossible due to only one flight a day, hence a stop there being 24hr+. But after calling and pleading three times, I found a sympathetic agent that was willing to help me out and added that somehow to my itinerary.

With only a half day there, I did a quick sledding trip and really loved the dogs as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do a longer trip to see the bears so I enjoyed reading about your experiences.

The confusion regarding customs, border, and luggage is unbelieveable – you’d think they fly this flight once a year…

Chaim

Way too much scrolling needed.

sam

Amazing post! Thanks for sharing!
New font is fine, viewed on a desktop.
Great long-exposures !!!

Jimbo

LOVE the large picture format!

burich

amazing!

Aryeh

1. Awesome new format, but prefer old font
2. like the bigger pictures
3. Read it on my phone

Great write up! I didn’t read the original until I saw this one. Very enjoyable. Looking forward to part 3.

Aryeh

USam

@Moishie Hersko
How many galleons for the pic?

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