The Arctic Tundra is an intriguing landscape…this biome lies between the Taiga forest and the permanent Arctic Sea Ice. The Tundra or the treeless plains lies above 66’33 N latitude or the Arctic Circle. Here the vegetation has to contend with extreme Arctic conditions dictated by the short growing season, low precipitation and temperatures (as low as -35 C in Winter!) and wind. Even in this extreme landscape, life thrives in the short summer months….
Barnacle Geese seen with chicks at Ny Alesund. Many birds like these Geese fly to Svalbard to breed in the summer.
The beautiful ‘hanging gardens’ of Svalbard…most people will not believe such a riot of colour in the Arctic, which is rendered by moss and lichen in many colours and spectacular flowers!
We saw many beautiful Arctic flowers on our walks on the Tundra…
This lovely pink flower is the Moss Campion (‘Silene acaulis’), which is also known as the Compass plant, as the flowers tend to concentrate according to the direction of the summer sunlight!
A herd of Svalbard Reindeer grazing on the lush summer grass…they have to feed as much as they can in the short summer season, to prepare for the long winter, where they get almost nothing to eat for about 6 months!
These Reindeer allow close approach, mainly beacuse they are in such an urgency not to waste any feeding time during the short summer! The few animals which live here have to contend with very harsh conditions..i was thinking about our Chital…they have such an easy life, with food available all the 365 days in the year!
When our Expedition leader announced one evening that we will be sailing into ‘prime Polar habitat’ by the morning, i could hardly sleep that night! I was out on the freezing cold observation deck very early, the next morning, scanning the distant islands for a long time. A lady next to me, asked me to check a suspicious moving object, with my ‘better binoculars’…and there is was..a Polar Bear!!! I just could not believe my eyes!! A Polar Bear in the Wild…in the Arctic!!
Our ship changed direction and we approached the ‘Ice Bear’ carefully…it turned out to be a female hunting for eggs of nesting ducks on the shoreline…