Svalbard. Teaming with the life and painted with a palate of primary colors – baleen bulky beasts to feather light birds, tropical azures to the deep dark blue of space. Massive glaciers frozen, but flowing inexorably into the ocean. Remnants of the ancient equatorial climate buried, carried to the extreme north and then tilted vertically like so many exposed pages of a book. Frigid air, brief sunny intervals, followed by fog and storms. The tilt of the earth changing the light from perpetual dark in winter to the constant light of summer, a light whose change is subtle to skin, that sense of feel, to sense the time as the sunlight moves across the horizon.
Svalbard is an extreme of earth reflecting the fragility of nature and the fallibility of humans. The brutal-ness of nature and the animal in humans. Laying hidden far north as civilization grew and fell in the south, millenniums of humans passing, until it was discovered by a Dane in 1595 whose legacy is now a Russian coal mining outpost (Barentsburg). Humans came and methodically hunted the great whales, walrus, Polar bears and foxes. Then digging holes for coal. Only now a hardscrabble life remains punctuated by a modern university, eco-tourism, chocolate factories and breweries.
Yet nature rebounded and the memories faded from life’s dna as the Artic Fox kits and Walrus pups now abandon their cautious nature and find us a curiosity. The air is bright – the waters azure – the frozen landscape rivaling the world’s iconic glaciers and ice caps. It is an adventure that reflects the beginning of civilization and, so I chose to peer at it through the Latin language lens. Aethereus for the atmosphere and swirling clouds interacting with the earth. Algoris for the ice formed by the winters cold temperatures. Animalis those who have survived the cold and made a permanent who this far north. Anthropologie for the arctic explorers attempting to ascend to the very axis of our spinning planet. Aquaticum for the cetaceans that ply the waters, exhaling their plumes into the air. Aspectus the latin for looking at or the physical appearance - broad in scope – but appropriate for the vistas that surround the traveler. And finally, Avairi – the root of aviary and the hundreds of thousands of birds that roost among the raw cliffs that abound in Svalbard.
All of this is but a glimpse – over a short ten days – and each visitor is bound to find a different perspective. I hope you can at least partake in the experience, breath the air, find your aspectus, and hear life in this extreme outpost near the top of the world.