glacial face on Kvitøya

Kvitøya…An Island Rarely Visited

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Today we traveled to Andreenesset, Kvitøya or White Island. 99% of the island is covered by an icecap. The island is usually inaccessible due to dense drift ice which remains most of the summer months, but today, in rocky seas we were able to visit, the bay anyway. The fog kept us from landing as polar bears are hard to spot in such conditions. The large swells made for a bouncy zodiac tour. Regardless, between the waves we were able to spot swimming walruses. There were at least eight in the bunch. The curious fellows popped their heads up above the water’s surface as we neared.

walrus in the arctic

Next, we motored toward shore around a handful of sand bars where the waves were breaking to see a memorial erected in honor of S.A. Andrée. The Swede attempted a hot air balloon ride to the North Pole and crash landed at this site in 1897. He and his crew members were thought to have survived here a few weeks before dying from trichinosis after eating spoiled polar bear meat.

The wreckage and camp was discovered 33 years later by chance when the Norwegian Bratvaag Expedition, studying the glaciers and seas of the Svalbard archipelago came upon the camp.

This Wikipedia link explains why Andrée launched against the recommendation of the manufacturer as the balloon had become pourous and was leaking. It also details how Andrée sent messages home with buoys and homing pigeons.

This voyage turned out to be quite the spectacle and the expedition’s journal and photos were recovered in remarkable condition. There is both a book and movie about the expedition, so I thought it best to provide the Wikipedia link, otherwise I’d be regurgitating for pages!

Kræmerpynten, Kvitøya

Next we sailed to Kræmerpynten, Kvitøya, but the seas were too rough to disembark. We did, however, take our group photo to mark the farthest north we traveled…above 80°. The Arctic Circle is currently 66°33′46.3″ north of the Equator. It is not fixed due to the earth’s tilt and tidal forces. It is currently drifting northward at 49 feet per year.

In the Arctic Circle, the sun does not go below the horizon for at least one day a year (which we are coming up on) and it does not go above the horizon for at least one day of the year.

We were planning the polar plunge at the farthest point north, but they delayed it due to the conditions, so we have headed back south and have watched lots of presentations…whales, photo editing, overwintering in Antarctica, and history.

farthest point north in the arctic
farthest point north

Hoping for sunny skies and kayaking tomorrow. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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