Arctic Fever – Day 6 – Off White

July 5, 2022

Monacobreen – North West Svalbard

When I think of Monaco, I roll my eyes. But what do I know? It’s not just about lavish lifestyles, yachts or brushing shoulders with the rich, famous and grifters. There is an ongoing commitment to sustain marine wildlife, earth and the oceans. The main office of IHO founded a 100 years ago to set international standards for surveys and charting the worlds’s seas and oceans is based in Monaco at the invitation of Prince Albert I of Monaco. The prince was a passionate oceanographer and polar explorer. What’s with the deep-dive? Monaco Glacier aka Monacobreen was named in honor of the Prince.

Monacobreen is the last glacier in the northern coast of Svalbard before crossing the 80th degree of latitude. It lies at the end of Liefdefjorden, the love fjord. At 6am we ventured out into the wilds of the 30km fjord to explore the area where he carried out scientific research. A range of observations and surveys were pursued. He dedicated his life to oceanographic work and funded further expeditions to continue research. The visit to Norway sealed the relationship between Monaco and Norway and as a result his great grandchildren earnestly continue his legacy to preserve the polar ecosystem and biodiversity while addressing climate change.

We weaved around huge chunks of ice broken off from the edges of the glacier. Spectacular reflections of the eclectic jagged glaciers glittered over the water. Stretched over the distance were mist covered mountains embellished with melted snow, the imposing Monacobreen tucked in between. I couldn’t take my eyes off the majestic view as we crackled slowly over shattered ice, a non plussed bearded seal chilling on the surface. For sure, we were up in its space.

Later in the day, we rode off to the northern shores of Spitsbergen, Woodfjorden and landed on the woody shores of Worsleyneset, known for its dominant red soil proliferated with fauna and flora. Named after Frank Worsley, a sailor from New Zealand who co-commanded a British expedition to the Arctic in 1925, the island was bare, trees non existent and a trapper’s hut, “Oxford Villa”, sat on top of a hill overlooking the sea.

The “trappers” or hunters who went out there in the 18th century, may or may have not been tuned in to Henry Thoreaux’s reflections at Walden. Except for the hunting part, they were chasing after the same goals, soul searching or something. Although the trappers did make some money selling polar and fox fur but then came in rules and regulations that obstructed their ambitions. However, “Oxford Villa” was a different story.

The Norweigen hunters built these huts sustainably out of resources available on the island and drifted wood washed ashore from the Siberian taiga. Stationed at the final hiking point before turning back to shore, we peeked inside and saw a stove, essential heat producing elements, pots and pans, and war paraphernalia. This hut was last used by Germans in the early 1940s. Now Trapper’s huts are part of Svalbard’s cultural heritage and are protected.

Polar bears and furry friends are known to roam around the island. We saw none but a couple of paw prints before we completed a 5.25km hike over 2 hours, unrelenting screaming Arctic Terns imploring us to stay away from their breeding grounds.

Later in the evening, there was an announcement that we were running on one engine to our next stop Varsolbukta, Bellsund.

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