Serenity in Svalbard

John Muir said “The glacier eats hills and drinks sunbeams” It’s true that Svalbard has a freshness and a beauty I have never found elsewhere”... Read more
Serenity in Svalbard
John Muir said “The glacier eats hills and drinks sunbeams” It’s true that Svalbard has a freshness and a beauty I have never found elsewhere”.

In May 2018, KE Polar expert Chloë Johnson journeyed to Svalbard for a truly special hiking holiday – her base, the beautiful sailing schooner The Rembrandt van Rijn.

Two things make this trip absolutely amazing and unique – the first is the lovely sailing schooner that will be your home for the week and will sail you into the smallest fjords other ships can’t reach (see box about the Rembrandt van Rijn).

This beautiful three-mast sailing schooner, was originally built as a herring lugger in the early 20th Century, before its top-notch refurbishment. It holds an exclusive 33 passengers. Its small scale (just 49.5m in length) is a huge advantage. It can sail where the other ships can’t. One day, we sailed into a smaller fjord, clearing a sand-bar by only 1.5m, the first mate hanging over the side with a rope to test the depth! On board there is an experienced crew of 12 including 2 guides who deliver lectures on the local history, geology and wildlife. The beauty of Rembrant van Rijn also continues below deck where there is a restaurant, reading area with a bar and 16 en-suite cabins. Above deck you can stay out as late as you like in 24 hour daylight.

The second is the chance to hike and walk on Svalbard archipelago, a profound experience.

The walking and hiking varies depending on the nature of the walk. The wildlife walks can be quite short, depending on where the wildlife is. On what came to be known as ‘Wednesday’s Walrus Walk’, we only did a very short, easy walk, as the walruses were chilling out at the end of a sandy spit near where we landed. We got so close, we could smell them. Sadly, it’s a bad smell, but that didn’t put us off staying near the herd, watching them, for over an hour.

When the objective is hiking, then it’s a proper hiking expedition, and you will be using snowshoes. The day we hiked ‘Fjortende Julibukta’ (the 14th July Glacier) was a full day hiking over the grey-blue of the glacier and up a small peak, where we had lunch. The only evidence of our existence was our snowshoe footsteps and, below in the fjord our beautiful schooner.

Sitting in the immensity of the deserted polar landscape, in the profundity of overwhelming silence is a moment that even as I lived it I knew would never happen to me again. On our return, we sat on deck, sipping Gløgg, hot Norwegian wine. It would have been harder to be happier.

There are also some sightseeing stops, even in the wilderness. Ny Ålesund is the most Northern permanently inhabited community in the North, lying at 78 degrees 56’. Roald Amundsen launched his airship from the village and became the first person to fly over the Arctic Circle – you can still see the launch pad. You can also - possibly more excitingly - post a postcard home in the village’s tiny post office. Obviously, we all did!

I spent many moments during the trip speechless with wonder and I hope my words have captured for you just how breath-taking this whole experience was.

Svalbard Hike and Sail – Trip Code - PHS

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