On the 15th of June, Polar Explorer Antony Jinman is heading north of the Arctic Circle to Svalbard!

Svalbard was first discovered in 1596 by a Dutchman named Willem Barentsz. A cluster of islands belonging to the Kingdom of Norway it became a popular spot for hunting Bow-Whales in 1611. The first polar expedition to Svalbard was by British captain C.J. Phipps in 1773. After a while, whale hunting became less popular, and instead, coal mining settlements were constructed. Pyramiden is one of the abandoned coal mine towns you can go visit today in Svalbard.

Svalbard is home to some fantastic wildlife like blue and white Arctic Foxes, Reindeer, Walruses, and unlike Antarctica, the magnificent Polar Bear. Polar Bears tend to keep to themselves and away from the town of Longyearbyen however sometimes they do approach it and must be gently redirected.

60% of the land is covered with glaciers, however, it does have some vegetation such as lichens and mosses, along with tiny polar willow trees and dwarf birches.

Probably the most fascinating thing about Svalbard is The Global Seed Vault. This was finished in 2008 and it is designed to be a seed preservation bank within a mountain. The storage facility is to hold important strains of seeds in case of an event like a natural disaster due to global warming. The facility can hold up to 4.5 million samples and can be located on the island of Spitsbergen.

The activities you can do in Svalbard include exploring the natural ice caves, dog sledding, skiing, and visiting the North Pole Expedition Museum and the Svalbard Museum. They have 7 national parks and 23 nature reserves which protect the natural and largely untouched environment.

Speaking of the environment, Svalbard is known as an Arctic desert this is because of its low temperatures, low humidity and the rock and ice that covers it.

In the 1950’s it was made illegal to die on Svalbard! This is because of the permafrost which covers the land, meaning that because bodies can’t decompose, and they are perfectly preserved it became a fear that disease could spread. Svalbard also experiences the two phenomena ‘midnight sun’ and ‘polar nights.’ Midnight sun is when it is daylight for 24 hours a day and the sun never sets, this happens during the summer months. Polar nights are the same but in reverse, it’s night-time all day! However, during the polar night period is the best time to see the natural wonders of the Northern Lights.

There is so much to see and do in Svalbard and we hope you’ll be joining us on our journey to Svalbard. You can follow all of the updates on our LikeToBe page Arctic Quest 22 and we will also be taking flags with school logos on. If you would like to get your school logo on a flag to the Arctic please email anjuli@liketobe.org.