Home again on the tail of three magical Arctic voyages aboard Polar Pioneer, exploring Svalbard and East Greenland. While every voyage sees a keen focus on wildlife—that dream of seeing the mighty polar bear, King of the Arctic—Svalbard and East Greenland are crowns crammed with all kinds of precious gems, from the large to the tiny. Here below are some of the wonders I love about the high north. I hope you’ll enjoy them too. — Robyn Mundy
Gateau Point, Scoresbysund, East Greenland ©Robyn Mundy
Bjørneøer (Bear Islands), Ø Fjord, East Greenland ©Robyn Mundy
Lake Noa, Blomsterbugten, East Greenland ©Robyn Mundy
- Kongsbreen, Svalbard ©Robyn Mundy
Kapp Stewart, East Greenland ©Robyn Mundy
Røde Fjord, East Greenland ©Robyn Mundy
Broad-leaved willow herb ©Robyn Mundy
Mouse-ear chickweed ©Robyn Mundy
Snow buttercups ©Robyn Mundy
Purple Mountain Saxifrage ©Robyn Mundy
Arctic cotton grass ©Robyn Mundy
Tundra reflections ©Robyn Mundy
Arctic fox in summer coat, Ytre Norskøya, Svalbard ©Robyn Mundy
Muskox, Harefjord, East Greenland ©Robyn Mundy
Svalbard reindeer, Kap Lee, Svalbard ©Robyn Mundy
Polar bear, Kvitøya, Svalbard ©Robyn Mundy
ALONG WITH A TRIBUTE
…to MV Polar Pioneer, our ice-strengthened Russian workhorse that makes it all happen year after year. For those of us who have been working with her since her maiden voyage in 2000, it is bound to be a sad farewell this time next year, the Arctic 2019 season being her final with Aurora Expeditions before she steams away toward shiny new adventures.
MV Polar Pioneer ©Robyn Mundy
A return from two months in the Arctic—Svalbard and East Greenland—ought to be brimming with epic tales of polar bear, muskox, blue whales, icebergs the size of apartment blocks. I can report shining moments with each of these wonders, but for now I’m here to introduce a creature, the first I’ve seen in my years of travelling to Greenland, best placed at the diminutive end of the scale. In North America these minuscule mammals, weighing in at ~200 grams, are called short-tailed weasels, while in North-East Greenland, where we spotted this little guy, they are named stoats (Mustela erminea).
To track a stoat darting across a hillside is a bit like keeping pace with a fast-forward animation. When stoats stand still they are so well camouflaged in their summer coat that you could miss them altogether. In NE Greenland, stoats share their habitat with lemmings, an even tinier Arctic creature who, unluckily for the lemming, provides the stoat its main diet. If I could portal myself back to Blomsterbugten (Flower Bay), where I snapped this photo just weeks ago, you would see this stoat decked out in winter white, its summer coat moulted, only the tip of its tail black.
Greenland is a land of contrasts, where the mightiest of landscapes, seemingly barren from a distance, harbour lush tundra forests, their plants sized for a doll’s house, their branches of Arctic Willow and Dwarf Birch rarely high enough to meet your knees. Here, growing in a meltwater stream bed and bathed in Greenland sunshine, is Broad-Leaved Willowherb, the country’s beautiful national flower.