Order calendars via zakshawphotography@gmail.com or the secure Paypal option below.

Order calendars via zakshawphotography@gmail.com or the secure Paypal option below.
My 2014 calendar was entirely photographed on the western side of New Zealand's Southern Alps. "Land in the West" is printed at a size of A4 with twelve calendar month pages displaying stunning outdoor environment photographs. Take a look at my Facebook page to view all twelve 2014 calendar images! Order here via Paypal or email me at zakshawphotography@gmail.com if you would prefer to pay with online banking. Thanks for your support!
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Arctic Diaries

Arctic diaries

Back in the groove, its like I never left! In Svalbard’s main port of Longyearbyen I boarded the Akademik Ioffe and reunited with friends of past seasons. Russians, Pilipino Aussies, Canadians, Americans, Polish, English and Swedish and kiwi staff employed to deliver polar expedition cruises.
This all began in 2006. Unknown to me a friend Graham Charles had put my name forward to an expedition cruising company with the hope that they would need guides to work their northern season.
Calling from Vancouver, Canada Aaron Lawton introduced himself and then offered me twenty-five days work in the high Arctic onboard a Russian vessel called the Akademik Ioffe. My role as part of the fifteen strong staff was to deliver a polar sea-kayaking program. I acted quickly seeking permission for time off from an employer in California before boarding a plane bound for Cornwallis Island twenty-four hours later!

My first voyage involved a transit of the renowned Northwest Passage. We headed south following the routes of famed explorers such as Amundsen, Franklin, and Ross, explorers who sought fame, fortune and a fabled passage that would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. History and hardship, it seemed the two came as one. Those bold enough to explore this barren wasteland and brave the cold of winter accepted sacrifice, many would not return home. We visited the graves of English sailors on Beechey Island, a desolate windswept landscape shaped by abrasive winds. We paced the thawing tundra of Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island on earth and sat in kayaks below Baffin Island’s eroding bird cliffs. Greenland’s Jacobshavn Glacier held us in awe, its scale, sheer power and beauty simply incomprehensible. At night the black northern abyss captured all passengers under the snaking green spell of the Aurora Borealis. 
Before I knew it the Ioffe was docked in the Inuit settlement of Iqualuit and it was time to fly south. I’d had a blast and walked away hopeful of a return to the frozen north.

Now in my 5th Arctic season I have been fortunate enough to have seen many regions of the High Arctic and I return each year looking to discover more.
This season has kicked off with a real bang! Graham and I are working together for the first time in the Arctic and its his style is more in tune with my own.
Our two week voyage commenced in Svalbard. We found a group of bears feasting on a dead whale, kayaked under clouds of Little Auk returning to their nests and had a stunning time in Hamiltonbukta; a heavily glaciated bay and host to thousands of birds that raise their young on the tiny ledges spire topped cliff called Austplana. Two days at sea saw us visit the worlds largest fiord system; Scoresbysund in Eastern Greenland. My visit last year was a full month earlier and we found impenetrable sea ice bands and gigantic glacial bergs jamming the fiord.  Many of our landings locations have been new this year, which keeps it fresh and exciting.
During our four day visit temperatures soared the entire time. Ice charts had gradually showed ice clearing out of Scoresbysund twelve days prior to our arrival so our transit of many fiords went largely unhindered by ice. Most days I paddled my kayak wearing cotton shorts and just one thermal top on! Turquoise melt water cascaded from melt bowls the size of hot tubs sitting on the tops of tabular bergs. Calving was constant. Brash ice bobbing around on the surface formed large areas of slushy soup. Millennia aged air cracked and popped as it escaped free having previously been trapped in the Greenland ice cap. This is one of the polar special sounds. All the signs of climate change were obvious everyday and its effect pronounced. Hot days under the midnight sun makes for comfortable days but the glaciers are dying because of it.

The Denmark Strait dividing Eastern Greenland from Iceland is one of the world’s populated areas for whales and we enjoyed some great Humpback whale sightings on our way to Reykjavik.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:44 AM

    Hey Zak - Peter S here. Loved seeing this post and enjoyed your writing, as well! We are winding down the season with three weeks left. Stunning weather and flows this year but not a lot of clients. Rush is just returning from Norway/Iceland and apparently got some epic footy in Northern Norway. We are headed down to see Alli in Aukland at the end of Aug and plan to do a 10 day trip around Coramandel P. We miss you and hope you will be back at some point. Say hey to grum and all the best from us!