Travel Photographer Susan Seubert in Arctic Svalbard and the Fjords of Norway

Velkommen! I recently returned from an epic adventure to the Svalbard Archipelago and the beautiful Fjords of Norway with National Geographic Expeditions.  This trip was phenomenal because we not only explored the land of the midnight sun where we hiked on the arctic tundra and took a late night stroll on the fast ice, we also witnessed a polar bear take a bearded seal.  Polar bears are difficult to see under any circumstances but to actually witness a successful hunt is truly a rare event.  After heading south past Bear Island, we arrived at the northern end of mainland Norway with our first stop in sunny Tromsø.  From there, we took the ship into many of the infamous fjords with towering, snow-capped mountains, beguiling forests and quaint fishing villages, whose residents welcomed us with open arms and loads of Norwegian waffles!

Below is a collection of images that tell the story of our journey by ship as we explored this beautiful area of the world. Enjoy!

Svalbard, Norway, Europe

The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen, Norway.

Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Signs warning of the presence of polar bears on the edge of the town of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.

Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Our first evening in the land of the midnight sun and the ocean conditions couldn’t be any better! Gorgeous sunshine and glassy water welcomed us to our adventure in Svalbard.

Svalbard, Norway, Europe

A late night champagne toast on the bow to welcome everyone on board the National Geographic Orion. The sun never sets here at this time of year. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Daudmannsoya, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Our first steps on to the arctic tundra were at Daudmannsoya where we saw our first reindeer and some interesting earth formations.

Daudmannsoya, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Our first arctic fox at Daudmannsoya. You can see this fox is losing its white winter coat.

Walrus haul out at Poolepynten, Prins Karls Forland, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Our next stop was to observe a group of walrus hauled out at Poolepynten, Svalbard.

Walrus haul out at Poolepynten, Prins Karls Forland, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

These giant blubbery animals come out of the ocean to rest and weigh in on average at about 2,000 lbs.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

The next day we headed to Hornsund to investigate the fast ice and look for polar bears.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Another sunscreen-worthy day in Hornsund!

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Our ice class ship had no problem negotiating the ice floes. Here we saw some fresh polar bear tracks on the ice, seen right at the tip of the shadow of our bow.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

The ice cracked as we began to park the ship in the fast ice.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Scanning the horizon as this is prime habitat for the giant fuzzy bears.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Our first polar bear of the trip! We spotted this one that was very far off in the distance, in front of a glacier. He quickly disappeared behind the hill.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Because of the fantastic weather, we were treated to a bbq on the aft sun deck of the National Geographic Orion.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Later on, we were able to find ice that was thick enough for us to get out and explore. Of course, we sent the polar guards first to examine the fresh bear tracks.

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

After the all clear from our guards, everyone came out on the ice for a fun group picture!

Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

After dinner, I joined one of our Norwegian spotters out on the observation deck to keep an eye out for bears. Difficult to believe that this is in the late evening!

Camp Miller, Bellsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

The emblematic reindeer grazing on the tundra at Camp Miller, Bellsund, Svalbard.

Camp Miller, Bellsund, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

These reindeer are smaller because they have to survive during the dark winter months. During summer, they shed and grow new antlers.

Polar Bear, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

We had headed back to Hornsund to spot bears. We found this one swimming in open water at about 5am. We watched it as it headed towards the ice where some seals were hauled out. It caught one and proceeded to have a great meal. A very special experience!

Polar Bear, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

The polar bear as it is eating its lunch and an ivory gull tries its best to get some of the meat.

Polar Bear, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Polar Bear, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Polar Bear, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

We pulled away after watching this bear catch and eat a bearded seal. Amazing!

Bear Island, Bjornoya, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

Bjørnøya, Bear Island, lies half way between Svalbard and mainland Norway. Its sea cliffs are home to large bird colonies.

Bear Island, Bjornoya, Svalbard, Norway, Europe

As we approached Bjørnøya, a large group of Fulmars joined the ship. They were so close that you could almost reach out and touch them!

Hellmobotn, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

This marks the beginning of our adventure into Norway’s beautiful fjords. We started in Hellmobotn, which is at the end of Tysfjorden, and home to a picturesque village.

Hellmobotn, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

We offered a range of hikes, one of which took us to the base of this tremendous waterfall.

Hellmobotn, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

Under the beautiful sun, we hiked in our first forest of the trip.

Hellmobotn, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

Cod hanging to dry in the village of Hellmobotn.

Hellmobotn, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

The glaciated walls of the fjord are very visible in Hellmobotn.

Hellmobotn, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

Picturesque buildings can be found throughout the fjord systems in Norway. This was taking as we were transiting out of Tysfjorden.

Lonkanfjorden, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

We awoke the next day at Lonkanfjorden, where one could hike, kayak or take a cruise in a zodiac.

Lonkanfjorden, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

The kayaks being prepared for the morning adventure!

Lonkanfjorden, Tysfjorden, Norway, Europe

Hiking deep in to the fjord at Lonkanfjorden.

Skrova, Norway, Europe

The quaint fishing village of Skrova in the Nordland county of Norway.

Skrova, Norway, Europe

Skrova is popular as a place where Norwegians have family summer homes that line the beautiful bay.

Skrova, Norway, Europe

Skrova is also an active fishing village, where cod is air dried using traditional methods. These were harvested shortly after we photographed them.

Trollfjord, Norway, Europe

We continued to be blessed with beautiful weather as we made our way into Trollfjord.

Trollfjord, Norway, Europe

Guests line up to watch as we enter this narrow fjord where the ship eventually noses in to the steep wall, in order to have our youngest guest pick a leaf from a tree.

Trollfjord, Norway, Europe

Getting close to the narrowest part of Trollfjord, at only 100 meters wide and 72 meters deep.

Vega, Norway, Europe

Our morning start in the fishing village of Vega, Norway. In 2004, Vega’s cultural landscape was inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage Site list as representative of “the way generations of fishermen/farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eider down harvesting.”

Vega, Norway, Europe

Throughout our visits in the fjords, seeing houses with green roofs was not uncommon. According to our guide, this is done for purposes of insulation.

Vega, Norway, Europe

We were lucky to come across a man with 4 Lundehund, otherwise known as Norwegian Puffin Dogs. These animals were once used to hunt puffin birds for humans. As a result, they have 6 toes and can splay out flat. Although these were almost extinct at one point, they now number about 1500 worldwide.

Vega, Norway, Europe

One of the highlights of our visit to this island village was being treated to a local seafood tasting, which included sea urchins collected in the bay.

Vega, Norway, Europe

Although not a traditional Norwegian dish, this village is practicing sustainable seafood by looking to the Japanese for inspiration.

Smole, Norway, Europe

We were welcomed to this tiny fishing village on the island of Smøla by the owner of this house, Peggy.

Smole, Norway, Europe

Peggy’s home was at one point the family home of her husband’s, and now serves as their family’s summer home.

Smole, Norway, Europe

This village was built before the industrial revolution and although not on the lee side of the island, it allowed the fishermen to see the weather before deciding whether to head out to work in the morning.

Smole, Norway, Europe

This is Peggy, one of the warmest people I have ever encountered.

Smole, Norway, Europe

We were able to explore this tiny island on foot where photo opportunities were everywhere!

Smole, Norway, Europe

Our group hiking towards the House of Prayer where we were treated to a very nice history lesson from one of the villagers.

Smole, Norway, Europe

We were welcomed with a seemingly endless supply of fresh Norwegian waffles and home made strawberry jam. Delicious!

Smole, Norway, Europe

Peggy, along with her friends, acted as our hosts.

Briksdal Glacier, Norway, Europe

Today we got an early start as we had to catch the bus to the base of the Birksdal Glacier. It was a beautiful hike through the mist on a well paved road to get to the base of the glacier.

Briksdal Glacier, Norway, Europe

Briksdalsbreen is an arm of the great Jostedalsbreen Glacier, and located inside the Jostedalsbreen National Park.

Nordfjord, Norway, Europe

In Leon, we were lucky enough to be one of the first groups of visitors to ascend the Sky Lift which offers amazing views through the mist of the villages below.

Nordfjord, Norway, Europe

The heart-stopping vertical Leon Sky lift is not for the faint of heart.

Nordfjord, Norway, Europe

The National Geographic Orion parked at Leon, at the base of the Sky Lift in Nordfjord.

Bergen, Norway, Europe

The last stop on our journey, the quaint town of Bergen, Norway.

Bergen, Norway, Europe

After our morning guided tours, we explored the town on foot, including the famous fish market.

Bergen, Norway, Europe

Strolling past the beautiful Hanseatic buildings of Bryggen, a World Heritage Site, was a fine way to end this incredible trip.

 

 

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