The King of the North and preparing to circumnavigate

Written by Andreas B. Heide


On our third day in Svalbard, we had the pleasure of meeting with the king of the North, the polar bear. It probably felt a bit more dramatic for Tord and myself than for the polar bears, as it should. We are on their menu, and not the other way around.


It all happened as we approached Aksel Island. Aksel Island had been hyped for days by Aksel himself, who felt that an island with such an appealing name would be worth a visit. The rest of us agreed, if nothing else, out of politeness. We anchored outside, as Tord and I took the dinghy in to shore to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, we had to make a quick retreat. We encountered two large polar bear males, as well as a mother with two rather large and hungry-looking cubs. Exciting, and quite the polar bear jackpot.


A mother polar bear and her cub. Photo by Tord Karlsen.


When we got back to the boat, Giulia and Aksel were looking a bit stirred up as well. The wind gusts had been up to 45 knots, and a bit too exciting at times for what was intended to be a quick anchorage.


We continued towards Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard, the same evening. On the way we deployed a SoundTrap, an underwater listening device, that will be recording for the duration of our stay in Svalbard. We will pick it up in 3 weeks from now and, hopefully, it will have recorded whales and more.


In addition to the science, we have also captured VR content for the educational program we work with. This has brought us to the icy fjords of the west coast, to bird cliffs, mountains as well as offshore, where we have looked for blue whales and deep diving odontocetes (toothed whales).


Barba traveling past the icy coastline. Photo by Tord Karlsen.


The main purpose of our stay on the west coast has been to prepare for the upcoming circumnavigation. It’s brought with it a lot of administrative tasks. Substantial time has been spent getting in crew from across the borders, which we fortunately have been successful with. Speaking of crew, we will reveal the new crew shortly. Aksel signed off as planned a few weeks back, having done an impressive job both helping prepare Barba the month before departure in Stavanger, but also to help sail her up to Svalbard.


One of Aksel’s last days in Svalbard, taking in the beautiful views. Photo by Tord Karlsen.


Additionally, we have done quite a bit to prepare the vessel. New sails from North Sails have been installed, which will allow for more efficient operations in the field. As I write this we are fueling up the diesel tanks, knowing that we will be without outside support for the next three weeks. Our means to communicate with the outside world will be limited. Most of the communication will be done when we are back, as well in the months that follow when return to Stavanger, Norway, later this fall.


Greetings from Barba and the crew,



Cover video by Tord Karlsen

Share this

Get video and photo updates

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get video and photo updates