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Svalbard Circumnavigation, Ice Bears and Islands, Longyearbyen

The Ice Bears and Islands Svalbard Circumnavigation team

(Post 1 of 4)

The goal is to score a world first–the first circumnavigation of Svalbard’s four main islands by kayak. This is the team: Per Gustav Porsanger (Norway), Jaime Sharp (New Zealand), and Tara Mulvany (New Zealand). I met them in the Longyearbyen campground to learn about the imminent journey. They planned to leave two days later.

The team has a 60-90 day window, and the crux will be paddling around Nordauslandet in the north east–which has never been done before. They will have to pass a glacier face that stretches 180 kilometers with few interruptions.

Their boats are 18 1/2 feet of custom made fiberglass and kevlar, and they’re built to have enough storage, stability and speed to go the distance. They haven’t paddled these boats much yet, but that’s about the change.

Aside from personal gear, they have 76 days of food at 5,000 calories per day, 40 litres of gas for the stove, two rifles and various flares.

They were feeling optimistic, but it’s a daunting journey: weather, ice, cold, isolation and the animal that thrives in those conditions . . . the polar bear.

I asked them each to show me a prized possession from their boats. See the next post.

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