Although an Arctic journey was very high on my 'bucket list', i was surprisingly under-prepared for this trip. 24 hrs before we were to emplane to Brussels, i was still in Bandhavgarh! So i was quite blank on what to expect on this trip...which was in a way a big blessing !
The navigation map on the aircraft monitor says it all...that we were really flying to the very top of the World! Our destination is the archipelago of Svalbard or Spitsbergen, which is Norwegian territory. It is located 3200 km (4 hours of flying on a Boeing 737!) from Brussels, from where we had boarded our chartered flight. I never imagined that i will be one day travelling so North !
We landed at Longyearbyen, which happens to be the Northernmost permanent settlement in the World (Pop: 2000). This is also the Northernmost civilian airport in the world! Svalbard itself is about 62,000 sq kms in area and one of the largest stretches of unspoiled Arctic wilderness.
The geographical coordinates of Svalbard has a tale to tell !
Smack! I was taken aback at this unexpected aggression when a bird hit me on my head, as i stepped off the road in Longyearbyen to investigate a 'white bird' sitting on the ground! It turned out to be a bird i always dreamt of seeing-an Arctic Tern!!
It's mate was sitting by it's ground nest with a single egg! Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic during the summer (June-Aug). They take about 3 weeks to incubate the eggs..another 3-4 to raise the fledglings and then the family embarks on the longest migration in the world-a 20,000 km one-way journey to the Antarctic, to be there in time for the summer!
The Arctic Tern completely amazes me...just look at it's supremely aero-dynamic shape..and the deeply forked tail. It is a bird of astounding beauty and grace! Can you imagine what an intrepid traveller it is...flying from one end of the world to another and enjoying a life of perpetual summer!
A pair of Arctic Terns attacking Dr.Case, a fellow traveller! They are extremely protective of their nests and defend them fearlessly and with screaming dives aimed at the intruder!
I managed to capture these pictures as they attacked me on the same stretch...by crouching on the ground and using my camera as a shield!
A true master of flight and aerobatics! A bird which epitomises beauty, grace, endurance and the spirit of survival! What a treat and a privilege to watch these stunning birds! My trip was already made on Day one!