Looking at the Svalbard archipelago in Norway was always my great dream. So I did not examine Ondra Prosický’s offer (www.naturephoto.cz) and I nodded without hesitation to participate in the trip to this dream place. But this term was untraditional for visit Svalbard. At this time of year, the 78 degrees North is still quite stiff winter. Minus 32 degrees Celsius is not the bathing temperature. All the bird species in this time were in the southern regions. Not so much birds to photograph. And only here I understood that I was deceived! The aim of the trip was one single object. Only, but absolutely amazing and admirable. The true queen of the winter here – arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus).
I wouldn’t harm anyone. Yet another photographic object was found here. On Svalbard there is a subspecies of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) endangered by extinction. Compared to their land cousins, the Svalbard´s reindeer is much smaller here, almost half. In addition to size, the local reindeer are characterized by another significant difference. They do not live in herds. It is hard to say what led them to do so. The fact is that in the harsh arctic winters, reindeer mothers often leave their cubs, which then cannot themselves feed through the frozen snow to food. The loss of reindeer cubs is considerable. And as is the case in nature, the death of one kind is a blessing for the other. Obviously, this is a key factor for survival in local long and harsh winters.
Concentrating on one single photographic object has its invaluable advantages. You can give energy for main scene all the time and other scenes are not require your attention. True, it sometimes happened to some of the reindeer grazing on the coast in the setting sun against the backdrop of pink snowy peaks. But otherwise it was a fox trek. Energy really cost us enough. Not only because of freezing temperatures and the ubiquitous wind. Hard, icy snow was totally impenetrable for my colleagues in their soft soles. Fortunately, the skialpin skeleton boots that I was equipped with allowed them to get their foxes out of range by creating some sort of “stairs” for them in an icy slope.
By the way, arctic foxes are in many cases not as shy as expected. It happened to us that we came to “Her Majesty” for a few meters. With a full belly she curled up and became a boring object in Svalbard for a few long minutes. We all waited impatiently for the moment when, for a few seconds with his noble, lemon-yellow eyes, he rested on us, his subjects, or even barked briefly or even briefly.
You should not leave the city on Svalbard without a firearm. You must own a firearms license to go with a firearm. In order to have a firearms license, you must deal with it in time. None of us owned any of the above. There was only one left. Don’t meet the bear! This made our radius very limited. He actually narrowed to a hundred yards away from the car. Only once did we go for a longer trip to the terrain. We thought that many bears might not be between the steep cliffs of the southern bank of the Icefjord and the airport runway fence. And it paid off. We met a pair of Arctic foxes, where we started the spring courtship.
Svalbard is a fantastic place. And so to speak, we did not pull the heels out of Longyearbyen. How must it be more than a hundred yards from the car? Maybe I’ll find out sometime next time.