Connor Hicks Photography

UK based landscape, festival and urbex photographer

Arctic Expedition 78° North

Arctic Expedition!

After hearing about the remote island Svalbard that’s situated between Norway and the North Pole we soon discovered it was home to the Russian ghost town, Pyramiden! My girlfriend and I couldn’t resist such an epic adventure with some urbex involved so we got on with the planning and booked the trip there before we would return to the U.K in September.

Months had passed and we finished our summer work contracts in Geiranger, Norway… It was finally time to embark on our Arctic Expedition!

2 and a half hours staring at clouds from above, they finally scattered just as we arrived over Svalbard! The views from the plane were absolutely stunning, it looked like a completely different world, we could see the vast snow capped mountains for miles.

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Svalbard from above

Out Of This World!

As we touched down in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard, we soon realised how desolate the island really was, the airport was tiny, and the plane we arrived on was the only one there. There was only 2 shuttle busses headed to town to drop off the scientists/ geologists and tourists to their hotels.

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The emptiest airport carpark

After a short journey, along the only road in Longyearbyen we’d reached our hotel, which was situated at the top of the valley, over looking the town and a former coal mine.

We decided to take a well deserved nap, and headed into town after to see what the place had to offer! After visiting the local tourist centre to see if there was any nice hikes etc near the town we soon found out that we weren’t allowed to leave the “safe zone” without a rifle or a local guide to protect ourselves from Polar Bears, so we were very limited to where we could go!

 

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Longyearbyen Safe Zone

After browsing the local shops and wandering the streets my girlfriend and I stocked up on food and drinks for the expedition the following day and took a stroll back to the hotel for some dinner and to get an early night…

 

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Expedition Time!

As always I woke up really early and went outside for a smoke, as I was gazing down towards the town I heard noises below me, to my surprise, there was 2 wild reindeer wondering the streets scavenging for their breakfast! I’d never seen these majestic animals roaming the wild before and I definitely won’t forget that moment any time soon!

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Wild Reindeer

We headed down to the docks and boarded the boat and set off.

The open water was very rough, and caused the boat to rock very intensely, it was quite amusing trying to make a cup of tea while being thrown about on the boat! but it soon calmed down once we entered Billefjorden where Pyramiden and Nordenskiold Glacier are located.

As we started to approach the Glacier we were greeted with a face full of freezing Arctic wind coming off of it, luckily we were dressed for the occasion!

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Trying to brave the Arctic winds

After seeing the spectacular glacier and getting excited thinking we’d spotted a Polar Bear (which turned out to be a white mark on a rock) we headed for the ghost town on the other side of the fjord.

We soon reached the ghost town and was welcomed by our tour guide, 1 of 12 people who lives and works there. She gave us a tour of the town and some of the derelict buildings, and taught us about the history of the coal mine and how the town worked back when it was fully operational (you can read about it here).

The tour went very quickly and we were soon back on the boat heading back to Longyearbyen.

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Polar Bear Graffiti, Longyearbyen

After another night in the Arctic our trip of a life time had come to an end, and we were on our way back to the mainland.

 

Facts about Svalbard:

1. The sun doesn’t rise for 4 months in winter.

2. Svalbard is considered a desert due to its low air humidity.

3. Svalbard has a population of around 2,700, there’s only 2 main cities. Longyearbyen which is under Norwegian control and Barentsberg, which is Russian.

4. The Streets aren’t named, they’re numbered.

5. It’s illegal to die in Longyearbyen. This came into force in 1950 after discovering that some people who had died and were buried there still carried a deadly virus called the Spanish Flu. The virus remained because the ground is permafrost (permanently frozen) so the bodies don’t decompose.

6. Longyearbyen is home to the worlds northernmost ATM, church, commercial airport, museum and university.

7. It’s illegal to lock doors, this includes private homes and cars. just incase a polar bear wonders into the town, you can enter the nearest building for safety.

8. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located in an abandoned coal mine, contains seeds from all over the world in order to preserve them. The countries can get back seeds to regrow after a crisis.

 

 

 

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