My Appetite For Adventure
My name is Krutika Jain I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for adventure and this love for adventure has driven my life decisions. At the age of 24, I decided to climb the Mount Everest base camp (EBC) to test myself and to feel that sense of accomplishment. The trek was, beautiful, the landscape would change every five minutes and I made some amazing friends from around the world.
After I completed EBC, I knew that I had to move on to my next adventure and that’s when I came across this amazing Explorer- Robert Swan – The first man in history to have walked on both the poles of the Earth. He created this organization called 2041.com, which works towards protecting the polar regions of the Earth. I read all about him and I knew I had to be a part of this mission.
I found out about his next voyage where he would be taking up to 90 people from around the globe on an Arctic Expedition to study climate change and equip them with solutions. I decided to apply. Getting in was not easy, mind you. I had to write a couple of essays, give interviews, submit assignments. After all the hard work that I had put into my application, I finally got selected on 7th August 2018.
But just getting selected was not enough. I had this humungous task of raising USD 20,000 (Rs 13.7 Lakhs) in front of me and I had about 7 months to do it. I made presentations, met a lot of corporates, convinced people and I saw myself raising some money slowly. I could raise the money through sponsorship from the company where I work – OYO- Hotels and Homes, crowdfunding and my savings. It took me 7 months but it was worth all the effort. I raised the money and was now all set to go on this great voyage to the edge of the world on National Geographic Explorer.
I had to again prepare myself physically and mentally for the expedition in order to survive the extreme cold and the long treks. My parents were very supportive and excited to see me go to the Arctic. Lucky me.
On the 15th of June 2019, 86 of us from 27 different nations had made it to Oslo(capital of Norway) our meeting point, to begin our beautiful adventure. We stayed in Oslo for 3 nights and undertook multiple sessions every day on leadership, storytelling, climate change and safety.
On the 18th of June, in the morning we took a 3-hour charter flight to Svalbard, northernmost Norway. The following day we went to see this beautiful place in Longerbayern and played with some cute husky dogs. We boarded our mighty vessel- NatGeo Explorer and set sail. We were lucky to see these beautiful beluga whales the following evening. Arguably, the best sight ever. We knew our expedition was off to a great start.
On day 2 of our journey on the ship, our breakfast was interrupted by the sighting of a humpback whale. Our morning was spent cruising below the peaks and impressive glacial fronts of Hornsund while we prepared for the expedition ahead with introductions to the expedition team, photography, and insights about our changing world.
Setting anchor off the point of Gnalodden, we geared up after lunch for our first landing ashore. Navigating through the bits of glacier ice, our zodiacs heading to shore were greeted by the sounds of thousands of sea birds nesting in the cliffs above that give the site its name. Kittiwakes and Bruinich’s Guillemots filled our skies.
While going back we explored this famous female trapper Wanny Volstad’s hut who used to trap foxes and polar bears. Mesmerized by the beautiful landing we ended our day learning more about the flora and fauna of the Arctic.
Just as exciting, it began with amazing lessons on climate change by Shell’s chief Climate Change advisor- David Hone. A couple of other fellow batchmates gave talks on their research projects and sustainability etc. We explored Storfjorden and went to explore the tundra and watch the scenery up close. It was so exciting to first spot a reindeer miles away and then move closer to it, just a few feet away. Watching these amazing creatures graze on land made me feel calm. We also saw these cool birds – red phalaropes feeding in the lakes.
We went back to ship for lunch and post-lunch we explored Kapp Lee on the island of Edgeoya. We were in for a beautiful surprise when we saw some 20-30 walruses just a few feet away basking in the sun after their meal. Walruses are beautiful to watch – they are lazy and cute.
This was a super adventurous day. We landed ashore for kayaking. A kayak is this small boat with two people rowing. It was amazing to go near the glaciers and watch the ice crackling. We did the famous polar plunge for which we were all waiting eagerly. Jumping into the ice-cold water at zero degrees Celsius felt so refreshing.
We ended our day with an amazing yoga session as it was also international Yoga Day. It was also June 21st -Summer Solstice, the Longest Day on Earth and we had a Swedish menu and traditional song and dance that went on till 3 am. It was beautiful to be at the Land of Midnight Sun on this
important day. By now we were used to experiencing sun 24×7 and it felt like we had been on this ship for days.
This was a difficult day. The weather got tricky and there was fog all over. This obstructed the view and the captain could not land our ship due to which we could not go ashore. But we were lucky to spot a few more humpback whales piercing through the clouds. Here we also learned about the traditional whaling culture of the Arctic and the current impacts of climate change on ocean life.
Interactive sessions with the people on board made the whole trip even more exciting. But day 5 was also a lucky day as we spotted a polar bear, watching it move through binoculars and everyone was pretty excited to have sighted their first bear.
Unfortunately, now we were closer to the end of this beautiful voyage. We woke up to the fog slowly disappearing and the morning began as usual with sessions on climate change and leadership. In the afternoon, after lunch, we went ashore on zodiacs to hike at Bellsund on our nature trek. We saw reindeers up close and some Arctic Fox footmarks on our hike. We all slowly fell in love with the beautiful Arctic landscape and also becoming aware of our mission to protect this wilderness.
This was our last day on the ship, but a very special day in terms of wildlife. We decided to go ashore on the zodiacs and go cruising into Magdalena Bay. Here, we saw walruses sitting quietly on the sea ice and also some ringed seals. The animals were very close and the sight was breathtaking. While returning back, we were super lucky to spot a polar bear again (female) and her two small cubs. They were about 400 meters away on the hill and it was the closest encounter we had ever had! After hearing stories on wildlife, we went back to our ship for some farewell dinner and very special group presentations on how countries can take up steps in combating climate change.
We landed back in Longerbayern, had a good breakfast and left to see the Museum. It was filled with the history and science of the Arctic and it was amazing to learn about the Svalbard life from our tour guide for the day. Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, is a small town, northernmost in the world having a population of just 2300. The temperature increase in Svalbard is six times higher than the global temperature increase. A changing climate is already increasing challenges for those living there.
Overwhelmed with the entire expedition it was time to say goodbye. We took our flight back to Oslo and ended our day with a team dinner and exchanged numbers and emails.
A Message For Everyone
The high Arctic is a beautiful place and going up to 80 degrees north gives you a sense of joy and purpose. The purpose is to protect this beautiful place and ensure that future generations are able to witness this beautiful piece of land. It is no joke that sea ice is melting. Polar bears are dying due to malnutrition and starvation, the permafrost in the Arctic is melting. The Arctic is seeing changes it has never seen before.
The Arctic is like the air conditioner of our Earth. What happens up there affects us here in our world. Some say the time is over while some are still positive and hopeful. I would like to stay hopeful because I feel that together we can change the world by taking small green steps every day and adopting technologies that will provide solutions in the long run. I would like to end with this famous quote from Barack Obama – We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.
This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Krutika Jain. If you have a story to tell us, drop us an email to [email protected]