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Back from the ice

Posted by Florian – April 25, 2010

I am just back from the field. For over 2 weeks I traveled out on the sea ice and the fjords of Svalbard, camping in Polar Bear country. As I am typing I feel my finger tips tingling, still half numb from the cold. I am completely exhausted for a lack of sleep and the constant cold coupled with wind. In my search of special light I stayed up with my guide throughout  many nights out on the ice.

Following fresh polar bear tracks, Svalbard.

A high pressure system provided us with good weather and magical sunlight during the midnight hours. During the night the soft rays of the sun changed from a light yellow orange to pastel colored purple. The white blanket of snow lend itself as a blank piece of canvas to an ever changing show of colors, all orchestrated by the sun.

While the wonderful light kept me from sleeping at night, it was the possibility of an unexpected polar bear visit, that kept us awake during the day. As much as we all wanted, we could not just crash into our tent and sleeping bags. The risk of a bear visit was just to high. The thin tent wall was only protection from the wind but not for a curious polar bear. So we had to take turns polar bear guarding if we wanted to get some sleep. And that bears were around, we were reminded constantly by tracks zigzagging the pack ice. So I had my share of turns sitting around camp armed with a “polar bear pistol” loaded with cracker shells.

Florian stands on a giant iceberg to scan for Polar Bears, Svalbard.

Next to the landscape it was especially the arctic wildlife that I was seeking to photograph. Many hours a day I spent high up on a giant iceberg that calved from one of the surrounding glaciers, hoping to spot a polar bear that would wonder in our direction. It was one of my favorite places as I enjoyed an incredible view of the “Negre” Glacier front that continues on for many miles. The gull-like Fulmars were using the little uplifting winds around the ice berg walls, gliding by my observation post.

While out waiting, one has a lot of time making up imaginary images. I was hoping for an encounter with a polar bear with the magic light of the late night hours. But soon the time at the East Coast Glacier came to an end without finding a bear in this magic light, non-the-less close by. To see a bear at all proofed to become quite a challenge. My patience was being tested but I planned to return to the same place a week later to try my luck again. I did not want to let my hopes down – and I had the feeling persistence would eventually pay off.

So we packed up camp and started to head back towards a track across the grand glaciers to head up towards the northern part of the Spitzbergen Island. In a matter of hours the weather deteriorated and icy wind blew down the glacier bringing dark heavy clouds with it. It began to snow as we started the trek.

Posted in: Adventure, Arctic, Expeditions, Experience, wilderness | Tagged: , , ,


  • Friedemann

    on October 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Emil, Flo, ich hab grad wieder eure Bilder angeguckt…. ihr seit einfach nur KRASS… mehr fällt mir dazu nicht ein… ich bin BEGEISTERT!

  • Martin Leonhardt

    on October 21, 2010 at 12:50 am


    Zufällig bin ich auf deiner Seite gelandet und hab die tollen Bilder der Arktis gesehen. Super Sache. Da ich auch oft in den Polaren gegenden (Polarforscher) bin weiß ich die Arbeit sehr zu schätzen. Na vielleicht bekomm ich ja auch mal so tolle Fotos hin.

    Weiter so.

    Gruß Martin

  • Emil

    on January 28, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Vielen Lieben Dank für deine Komentare Friede!! Ich freue mich total dass unsere Arbeit Dir immer noch begeistert :) Alles liebe! E.

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About this blog:

Sharing the natural world through stories, images and experiences out in the field from conservation photographer Florian Schulz and Emil Herrera-Schulz. Here you will find conversations on environmental topics, conservation, photographing nature and wildlife subjects and professional tips to achieve striking images or managing your image archive. If you have a question, send it to us via our contact form and it might get answered on a post!

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