Only a few weeks a year, during the short arctic summer, many bodies of water around Svalbard are navigable. The fjords in the north in particular are usually firmly in the grip of the pack ice. Not so in the past year.
Climate change is leaving its mark. In the north, the Svalbard Archipelago borders the Arctic Ocean - normally the pack-ice border is located there, about 80 degrees north, even during the summer. In 2009, however, it had withdrawn around 90 nautical miles further north.
A group of sailors did not miss this opportunity. Starting from the Isfjord, on board the French yacht "Southern Star", they not only explored the fjords and islands in the west of Svalbard, where many cruise ships have long been hauling paying tourists in droves. The sailors also rounded the north cape of the island, penetrating regions in which people rarely get lost.
It is the realm of glaciers, mountains, polar bears, walruses and seals. Many areas have not even been reliably mapped to this day. On the other hand, one comes across traces of earlier times when whalers stopped on the island. When people tried to mine natural resources in the midst of the rough, barren nature.
It is a trip far away from any civilization. Where the word wilderness is justified. YACHT reader Harald Gridl has documented what you experience. His photos and his descriptions whisk you away to an area that rightly deserves the title "unique". His documentation can now be read in the new YACHT (issue 5/2010, available in newsagents from Wednesday).