Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Ice, Ice Baby
sunny and 35 degrees F
13 July 2011 | Spitzbergen
I've stopped counting how many polar bears we've seen. There was one swimming, the one with two playful cubs, the one that came right up to the ship, another teaching its cubs how to stalk a seal, yet another sneaking stealthy up to a sleeping group of walrus... It's been incredible. And icey!

It feels good to be back in the land of snow and ice. I love the Arctic and all the things it represents - vast wilderness, an extreme environment and animals that are uniquely adapted to live and survive in this place. After three or four days (I can't remember how long as the 24-hour daylight blends time together) I am exhausted - not from physical activity or danger, but rather, the extent of spectacular scenery and abundance of wildlife. I have been hesitant to go to sleep for fear of missing out (F.O.M.O. Maria calls it).

Speaking with full discloser, I have to be honest and say that this trip is hardly one of physical stress and deprivation like my other expeditions. I am on board the National Geographic Explorer and thoroughly enjoying my role as a 'Global Luminary'. The Lindblad Expeditions staff is incredible as well and I have upped my knowledge of Arctic flora and fauna ten fold.

While our main mission is to be on the lookout for polar bears and other wildlife, I can't help but continue obsess over the myriad shapes and varieties of ice. We've seen large bergs, pack ice, small pans, large blue-faced tide water glaciers, berg bits and much more. My Ice Photo stock has increased exponentially in the few short days I've been here.

Back in Oslo, we touched (literally) polar history at the Fram museum. For those of you who don't know, the Fram is the ship that Norwegian Polar Explorer Fritjolf Nansen built in the late 1800's to hopefully sail into the Arctic pack ice and drift to the North Pole. The Fram was also used by Roald Amundsen to sail to Antarctica where he became the first person to reach the South Pole. For me, it was a powerful experience to walk the same deck as my polar heroes. I left awed and inspired to be so close to these great men.

Getting back on the bus Maria offered a different perspective. 'I found those crackers I like in that cafe'.

In her defense, we had skipped lunch trying to save a few extra dollars. Things are more than a little expensive in Oslo. Our pizza and beer dinner the previous night had cost $130 US.

Image: A polar bear jumping across an ice floe.
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