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Exodus’ famous Polar charters are deservedly popular. These photography-focussed spectaculars sail the seas just once or twice a year, accompanied by perhaps the most dedicated Polar experts on the water.
The vessel is filled to the brim with expert zoologists, accomplished sailors and award-winning photographers ready to share their knowledge and specialism with every passenger on board.
Spitsbergen through the Lens
This will be Exodus’ resident wildlife photographer extraordinaire Paul Goldstein’s 15th expedition to Spitsbergen. To celebrate, we asked him to send us his favourite moments from the archipelago from the last fifteen years, a chance for us to see Spitsbergen through his lens.
Paul: 1.15 a.m: I mean, who could possibly go to bed when you have a night like this? Perfect weather conditions, glorious pastel backdrop about twenty nautical miles from the shore and a hunting Polar bear.
There wasn’t a great deal of sea ice around the main islands, so we sailed north to the pack ice for six days and had bears in spades.
Paul: Arctic foxes are a major draw in Spitsbergen and there are no better places to see them than the cavern of Discobukta above a tidal beach.
This is a tricky place to get to, but with 20,000 kittiwakes in the cavern, the larder is always full for these tundra scamps.
Paul: A bear on an iceberg is pretty close to the polar grail. We found this female by the ice cliffs at the foot of North Island, and she treated us to a few hours of photographic nirvana.
We photographed her from zodiacs and from the deck of the ship, but the extra height from deck six really gave an extra dimension and perspective to the shot.
Paul: A few years ago a large number of bears centred around an old Sperm whale carcass. There was strict pecking order at the whale and finally after waiting their turn this mother and tiny cub ate their fill, not without incident. (see number 10).
As they retreated they padded under this glacier, I used a 200mm lens, intent on capturing the whole scene not just the animals.
Paul: Two days of sea mist then this. This image may be ten years old, but remains one of my favourite moments ever.
We worked hard for it, but what a reward. This encounter lasted five hours – and this was the second family of the morning!
Paul: Arctic terns are special birds and photographers’ favourite as they are active and indeed aggressive.
There is no little humour here, with the unimpressed female turning away as if to say, ‘Bring me chocolates and jewellery, I’m bored of fish.’ This little domestic took place at the foot of the Monaco glacier – three kilometres of moving glacier face.
Paul: A whole ship on deck at midnight, a young female desperate to feed, trying to claim some of a much older bear’s kill. Everyone got this shot; I love it when that happens.
Photographing bears from the boat
Paul: You want to be here; who wouldn’t?! The Vavilov is my favourite ship: quiet, has a good ice rating and more vantage points than most.
This bear seemed to know that and gave us a few lazy circuits. When you take these images with a wide-angle lens you know you have had a good sighting.
It’s moments like that that keep so many coming back on their third and fourth visits.
Paul: This was the mother and cub from number ‘four’. The mother is feeding on two-year-old whale mush, having to dive each time and the tiny cub advances over the vertebrae before slipping in.
Past midnight, the third Zodiac trip of the day, fifty metres from this sort of drama – you see why people come back, this and the previous number are top ten wildlife moments for me ever.
Herd of walrus
Paul: Walrus – you have to love them and seen from the ocean they are far more interesting and indeed active.
This was a haul-out of about 40 mammals and they gave a good show as they dived and circled around us.
Birds flying around Alkefjellet
Paul: Alkefjellet again, and it is not just the imposing basalt that gets rock doctors excited.
This is prime avian real estate with about half a million guillemots, Glaucous gulls and kittiwakes filling the skies. This is an ornithological spectacle; it’s best to wear a hat!
Take a look at our Spitsbergen tours below and discover these incredible animals for yourself.