Ny Ålesund, Svalbard, Norway

It’s like I never left.

The same frenzied packing, the same interminable flight from Seattle to Oslo to Longyearbyen. The familiar scramble to sort gear, buy up half the groceries on the island, prep the boat and somehow stow three weeks worth of too much gear and food into too small a boat. Somehow, it all fits.

We set sail after midnight, moving into Isfjorden under low gray skies. It starts to look familiar now.

The sailing out of Isfjorden turns wretched. A night of exploding toilets, puking shipmates and heaving seas.

It’s followed by three days of chaos. The futile search for bears, walrus or suitably inspiring landscapes, the continual daylight, the incipient alcoholism and sleep deprivation. It makes for a potent combination.

Ny Ålesund’s leaden gray skies, tourist crrowds and tern shit come almost as a relief.

There’s little else on offer except the surreal vision of a Philippine barman dressed up in a polar bear costume, posing for German cruise ship pensioners’ snapshots.

Which was probably enough.

Photographed July 7, 2011 in Ny Alesund, Svalbard with a Canon 1Ds III and 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure: 1/500 at f/8.

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