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Expedition life in Svalbard

by Anu from Waterproof Expeditions

End of June 2023 Anu from Waterproof Expeditions had the opportunity to join a voyage onboard brand-new expedition vessel Ocean Albatros very far up north in Svalbard. In this blogpost you can read more about her experience and life on board an expedition ship.

How it all started

Our expedition started with a charter flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen. Many excited travelers gathered to the check-in counter ready for their adventure in the Arctic. After all the formalities and luggage drop off, we went inside the terminal and proceeded through passport control and towards our departure gate – ready for take-off! After the approximately three hour flight time we arrived to slightly foggy and overcast Longyearbyen. On arrival, Albatros expedition staff were greeting us, our luggage was loaded into a truck with a tag of our cabin number, and we jumped on a bus that took us to the pier where the ship and staff were waiting ready to welcome us with some refreshments and snacks. We were then showed our cabins and we had some time to settle in before safety briefings.

First night on board

No expedition ship can sail before the mandatory safety drill has been done and all the guests onboard have been shown how to safely evacuate the ship in case of an emergency. After hearing the evacuation alarm, we put on warm clothes, our life vests and headed to the muster station. From there we were escorted in two groups to our designated areas where we would then in case of a real emergency step on the lifeboats. The evening onboard was spend by exploring our home for the coming days, of which you can read more about from the blogpost: Expedition Life in Svalbard

After the first night onboard we woke up to a foggy morning. Once we had enjoyed buffet breakfast we received information from the Hotel Director, regarding the different amenities and services onboard. It was followed by briefings about polar bear safety and zodiac operations which are required by AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operations) as part of guidelines for visiting Svalbard.

During the expedition we had daily lectures, presentations, or films with interesting topics regarding for example the nature and wildlife in Svalbard.


Ny Ålesund

On the first afternoon afternoon, typically to Svalbard – the fog had cleared out and we were offered our first landing to Ny Ålesund which is located in the Kongsfjord, west coast of Svalbard. It used to be a Norwegian mining town, yet these days it is an international research center and one of the few settlements on Svalbard with post office, museums, little boutique and of course lots of history. Even though slightly populated there was wildlife around and we spotted i.e. some reindeer and nesting arctic terns. In the boutique we did some souvenir shopping and sent out postcards to home from the Northernmost Post Office in the world!

Once back onboard we enjoyed welcome cocktail with our Captain, followed by welcome dinner – our first A la Carte dinner while the ship continued its journey towards north.

Exiting encounters

On the next day, right after the wake up call, we received some very exciting news! The guides had spotted two polar bears – a mother and her cub in front of Frambeeren enjoying their breakfast which was a walrus carcass.  This was very happy news for everyone, and people gathered on the decks with their binoculars and cameras to observe these majestic animals. We observed the bears from a distance, whilst they were enjoying their breakfast. After some time, the mother had had enough and started to move away, with the cub following slowly behind. When the bears disappeared in the distance, it was time for us to also go inside for our breakfast, and prepare for the adventures of the day, as we were about to have our first landings on zodiacs!

The wildlife in Svalbard can sometimes be hard to find, but experienced expedition teams know were to look for. Of course, you also need a bit of luck! During our voyage we were lucky to see  polar bears, walruses, seals, puffins and many other sea birds, reindeer, arctic foxes and some whales; minke whales, fin whales and belugas.

Daily schedule

Every morning the wake up call was at 6:50 in the morning. Breakfast was served from 7 o’clock onwards. After breakfast until lunchtime, there were one or two activities; landings, zodiac cruises or lectures, and similarly in the afternoon after lunch.  Every evening the expedition staff held a briefing, in which they went through the plans for the next day. Most of the days there was also enough time to relax in the sauna or jacuzzi, do sports in the gym, read a book in the library or chat with the fellow travellers in one of the lounge areas.

This year the pack ice around Svalbard was still very strong at the end of June, and therefore our original plan to sail around Svalbard was not possible, and the expedition leader had to make new plans for the voyage. Therefore, after spending some time in the ice, instead of going around we headed back down the west coast of Svalbard to explore the different fjord and landing sites.

Most of the days consisted of combinations of landings, zodiac cruises and lectures

Zodiac Cruising

a zodiac cruise was on the schedule, we geared up and headed down to the mudrooms, where we put on our comfy loan boots, life vests and went to the doors to get in the zodiacs. The expedition guide was always helping you to get in the zodiacs, and once everyone was safely seated, we started the engine and went to explore the fjords. While on the zodiac we could enjoy the spectacular views, with calving glaciers and floating ice. During the zodiac cruises we also observed different wildlife i.e. Walruses, reindeer, puffins and many other bird species.


Almost every day we did a landing to a site, that had some kind of story behind it, meaningful landmark or just breathtakingly beautiful. To get to the landing site, we took normally a few minute zodiac ride. The time on the landing was depending on the location, but normally you had approximately an hour to walk around and explore. There were red flags guiding the path you should stay on, and guides with riffles protecting the area from possible furry visitors. On the landing sites we also encountered some wildlife or traces of it, like for example polar bear footprints.

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