Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Trip

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On Sept. 27,  around 5:00, we left Longyearbyen. Once we left port, there was no more contact with the outside world. 

This is Nemo. He and his owner, Sarah, were our guides during our trip. There were two other guides as well- Theres and Åshild. The guides were necessary as they were our polar lookout points while we worked on land.

Last view of Longyearbyen. Each day, the light would dramatically decrease - about 20 minutes. The sun doesn't rise above my head here, but rather travels in a circle. 

The ship's compass.

My view from the top bunk. This is a very calm view - at times, the portal would be completely immersed in the water because of rough seas. 

We have our first landing.

After lunch, we anchor up and sail north. The weather is so perfect that we have the opportunity to sail. 

Magdalenefjord. This is an old whaling station. The yellow color is the land is still stained from the whale blubber that had been boiled down many years ago. I hiked in the afternoon.
Artists at work. 

Getting ready for the hike.

Sarah and Nemo keep a sharp for polar bears which are a constant threat because there are a reported 3500 polar bears on Svalbard and just about 2000 people.

There was a bit of trash on the beaches in the Arctic. I started to collect the trash on this day. In the end, there were 2.5 bags of garbage collected. Those bags of garbage are being mailed to me for a sculpture project.

This is a great view of the fjord, which is  a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley. 

In the evening, we have our first view of a polar bear. The bear is the tiny white spot. Apparently, bear was woken up by our presence, then quickly went back to sleep.

We set sail for towards a magnificent glacier. There are zodiac tours of the ice. Many of the artists on board photographed the ice for later paintings. Some did video work, time lapse work, and some even recorded the sounds of the ice for their research.

The scale of Svalbard is indescribable. On the right side, that is our ship next to the glacier. A glacier is dense ice exceeding  and is constantly moving under its own gravity. A glacier is formed over many decades, sometimes even centuries, where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation (melting and sublimation). Glaciers slowly deform and begin to flow because of their weight. They also contain rock and debris. Glaciers form only on land.

This is a piece of glacier that had broken off at the edge of a glacier. The process is called ice calving.    It is the sudden release and breaking away of a mass of ice from a glacier, iceberg, ice front, ice shelf, or crevasses. When the ice breaks away, the sound is reminiscent of thunder and is often followed by a tsunami. 

Sea ice.

The remainder of the day we sail north. Seasickness sets in. 

New Day. There is a long and rocky hike on Hamiltonbukta in the morning. My afternoon is spent collecting trash along the shore. Unfortunately, the camera battery died due to the cold pretty early on and I was unable to take any significant photos.

Next, Raudfjordbreen. This is our first big snow storm. 

Zodiac takes us to and from shore.

On the hike, we find a seal skull. I use it a mask. Hopefully, my hard drive will be repaired so I can pull those images up. For now, I have this image taken by Han Sungpil. By the way, this find has inspired me do animal spirit masks with my students.

New Day. We anchor up and sail south into some strong winds. Most of us are seasick. The only respite from the heavy swells are the two stops for Nemo's on-land bathroom needs. This was an opportunity to grab some strong tea and dry crackers before heading back to the cabin. Some of the swells are so large that the motion has elevated me from my bed. So few of us are awake during this ride. It reminds of the plague days from the middle ages where only 1/3 of the population is strong enough to survive. 

Today is icy cold. The coldest day yet, but the skies are clear. The hike is in the morning. There are no images from these hikes.  The afternoon is spent documenting the landscape.

Again, the scale of this place is beyond words.

 Next stop is  Ny-Ålesund,  one of the world's northernmost settlements and mostly inhabited by 40 or so scientists and researchers. 
A huge thanks to Lee for those wondeful mink & cashmere mittens!

Day 10. The most breathtaking hike ever. 

Our next stop was  Blomstrandhalvoya followed by Pyramiden. The days are long and seamingly endless; in sense that I have lost time. I am unable to tell what happened and when it happened. We're nearing the end because we travel further south. 

 We had the delightful pleasure of seeing an Arctic Fox.

 Yes, there are reindeer on Svalbard.

There is an incredible hike in the mine- worth ever drop of sweat. 

Our last landing and last hike. It is snowing. We look for fossils along the hike around the fjord. 

After we land, we say goodbye to the crew. We spent an additional two days in Longyearbyen - running into our new friends and saying goodbye again. There is so much to have been learned from this trip and there is an enormous amount of research done for a new body of work. 


  1. Excellent. Thanks for the update and wonderful photos.
    JP Custom Framing

  2. Awesome, I can't wait to see what you'll make.

  3. congratulation! can't wait to see what those garbage look like...

  4. Great Pictures, I love the color of the water. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Keep up the amazing sharing! We are enjoying your pictures and comments.

  6. Wow! Laura, that's amazing. I love that old house and all of the color. What an amazing experience. I could never endure that amount of cold. You're braver than me. I love that you walked the beach there like you do at home. Can't wait to see your new body of work! Enjoy!

  7. Wonderful pictures and amazing trip! I'm so happy you were able to experience this. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I enjoyed every little detail.