I haven’t visited anywhere in the world that is as quiet and solitary as the great outdoors of Svalbard. On a calm day there is mostly silence. When exploring the landscape there is very little audible variation. You have the wind, the water and the occasional bird chirp, but this is rare. This is obviously because of the extreme weather in the Arctic. The wildlife is unique and limited. Svalbard is mostly uninhabited by humans; there’s only a couple of thousand people on the archipelago (which is twice the the size of Belgium) most of whom are living in the the capital of Longyearbyen.
The glaciers here are spectacular. They are frozen rivers that run in ultra slow motion, some move a few meters a day whilst others a few meters a year, depending on the incline below the ice. Glaciers are responsible for much of the landscape in Svalbard. The ice drags rocks across the ground carving out fjords along the way. They also act as huge reflectors for the suns energy. We have observed glaciers from the ship and climbed onto them. They are visually stunning but also create an interesting range of sounds from their movements. When you peer into a deep crevasse you can hear the dripping of the melting ice. There are also pops, cracks and gunshot sounds where the ice is fracturing. These sounds are generated by the release of air that has been compressed for many thousands of years.
We have also experienced huge chunks of ice fall off the glacier cliff edge and into the sea, this activity is called calving. The sound of calving is thunderous, like a huge bombs exploding and can be very dangerous if observing too closely.
My cabin is at the front of the boat and below deck so when I’m in bed my head is pretty much parallel to the surface of the water outside. Just a few inches of steel separates me from the sea. This means I can hear every collision with the ice very clearly. There are times when we glide through the ice shearing it effortlessly. Other times it feels like being we are continuously crashing into brick walls which can be a little disturbing, making it difficult to sleep.
There is also the crunching sound of walking across ice and snow, this is the only sound that I was familiar with prior to this trip, the rest is is all new.BACK TO TOP