Tundra. Never really knew what that meant but on our trip to Norway and the Arctic Circle I had a chance to experience it first hand. During June, the tiny but hardy plants were starting to make their appearance. One really had to bend down to see them but we did and enjoyed little itty bitty purple blossoms.
When you think we were all layered up in long underwear, fleece lined pants, arctic jackets and heavy gloves, it is amazing to me that the exposed tiny plant life could survive.
Our guides encouraged us not to step in each other’s footsteps in soggy mossy looking terrain because repeated steps would kill the fragile plant life.
We examined old ruins of whaling camps, including human and animal bones, the stones marking grave sites and logs believed to be washed up from Siberia.
We even spotted some bear tracks.
On this same day, we had a chance to get into kayaks to explore a protected cove. Again, layered with waterproof and warm clothing, we enjoyed paddling around ice, watching a walrus and her child.
Now be aware, we were protected. We wore water sensitive beepers with a panic button. The Lindblad/National Geographic Naturalists knew where we were and were on alert incase something happened–like an polar bear joining our party. I felt very safe although really out of my element.
As always, I am riveted by the colors–blues, silver, whites–and the patterns of the water, ice and the intricate and ever changing reflections. The intense blue of the ice under the water is especially compelling. One really has to see it to believe it.
I had a chuckle though. When the naturalist in the guide boat near us pointed out the walruses, one of the other guests shouted, “What do we do?” I think he was nervous. Do they attack?
No way. The Naturalist called back, “Just enjoy them. What a sight.” I certainly did and I loved my watery ride around the ice and rocks.
Having grown up near Lake Michigan I am used to seeing vast amounts of water covered with ice. But I never dreamed I’d glide through huge chunks of ice in the erie blue grey and white landscape on a big ship in search of illusive but ever present wildlife. Incredible experience. I can see why the explorers wanted to go there and in many cases, lost their lives in search of this remote and magical part of our world.
Karen Copeland, one of the naturalists on the trip, described what I feel about that day. She wrote in the daily briefing, “Sometimes a word rambles about in our minds transforming our perceptions of the day, tying random times and places with a common thread. Layers. We learn that layers enhance an image when trying capture a scene. Today it seemed that everything around could be peeled away sheet by sheet to reveal a hidden mystery.”
I am in awe of this part of the world–full of hidden mysteries and the incredible design of the universe.