To visitors, the Norwegian archipelago can seem both ethereal and eternal. But climate change all but guarantees an eventual collapse of its vulnerable ecosystem.
The strong summer sun melts the top layer of ice on Austfonna, Svalbard’s largest ice cap and Europe’s third-largest glacier, creating myriad gushing waterfalls. Credit...
Mesmerized, I would lean against the railing at the front of the ship, alone, for hours on end. Over the course of 10 days, no two moments were the same. The Arctic world was constantly shifting and changing around me as we slowly made our way through ice and open sea, past whales, walruses, birds and bears.
Except to keep track of mealtimes, watches were irrelevant; in the summer, this far north of the Arctic Circle, the sun never goes anywhere near the horizon.
I visited the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in 2017, having ended up on the M/S Stockholm, a classic ship built in 1953 and refitted in 1998, through sheer luck. (A last-minute cancellation and a chance meeting with a South African dentist somehow got me a closet-size cabin.) I stepped aboard, excited but without any particular expectations.