I’m going to Svalbard.
Svalbard is an archipelago – that means a group of islands – in the far north of Norway. I’ll travel there by plane, stopping off at Oslo in Norway, then flying on, nearly up to the top of the planet. I will land in a town called Longyearbyen, which is the most Northerly town on Earth, only 2000 people live there all year round.
In the winter the top of the Planet Earth is turned away from the sun so it doesn’t get light in Svalbard, and in the summer which is when I am going, it never gets dark. They call it the Land Of The Midnight Sun, the sun will be up all day and all night.
How will I be able to go to sleep? I hope they have black out blinds!
A lady called Sarah is going to pick me up from the airport and take me to meet a group of artists and scientists who will have traveled to Longyearbyen from all over the world.
Sarah is an Arctic guide and she is also in charge of a ship called Antigua.
This is the ship Antigua.
I’m going to spend three weeks sailing around with Sarah, the artists and scientists, and a husky called Nemo. I haven’t met any of these people before and I am sharing a cabin with a lady called Hailey from Australia. I hope she is nice because the cabins are very tiny with a bunk bed to share. You can see more info about the boat here, look at my cabin number 3 tucked under the stairs!
This is the inside of the ship, doesn’t it look beautiful?
I can’t imagine what it will be like to live in there with a group of strangers. Will I be seasick? Will I be homesick! What will the food be like? Will it be freezing cold all the time?
As we sail around the islands I hope that we will see some animals. I might see a seal or a walrus, or an arctic fox. In the sea there will be massive whales swimming silently by, I would love to see a whale surfacing for breath, maybe swishing its huge tail in the waves. One kind of whale that I know is sometimes around Svalbard is a Narwhal.
They have this mysterious spiralling horn like a unicorn, it is actually a tooth which grows very long. I wasn’t sure if Narwhals were a real living animal or a legend before I went to the Natural History Museum, there you can see a stuffed Narwhal along with all sorts of other whales.
This is the whale room in the NHM, look how big they are compared to the people!
I would really love to see a Narwhal in real life and make a picture of it for my book.
I am writing an illustrated book for children about the things I discover in the Arctic, as I go along I’ll draw pictures and make collages and write down everything I see. We have started an Arctic Adventure Gang which anyone can join, just sign up to the blog and then you can ask me questions and help to shape the book. Send in a picture if you like and I’ll add you to the gang gallery.
Here is Beth, one of our Arctic Adventure Gang members with a question for me…
Are there penguins?
Well Beth, I think I am going to see lots of different sorts of birds as I sail around Svalbard, but will there be penguins?
No there won’t.
Penguins live in Antarctica which is at the bottom of the planet where the South Pole is. I’m going to the Arctic which is at the top of the planet where the North Pole is.
These are some birds I might see, I have imagined what they might look like. Which one do you like best Beth?
In the Antarctic there are no big animals on land so the penguins can gather together in colonies and hatch out their chicks without fear of being eaten. In the Arctic there are Polar Bears which roam the land and they would have a wonderful feast if they came across a delicious group of penguins. So the penguins live happily in the South and in the North there are smaller birds which can fly away from hungry bears.
There really are polar bears roaming around on the islands where I am going. And Polar Bears are very big and strong and wild and they would like to eat people for lunch. We should be safe on the boat, but when I get off the boat with the other artists and scientists we will have to make sure we have guns with us just incase a hungry bear comes along and we can’t get away.
I don’t know how to shoot the sort of big rifle that you need to protect yourself from a Polar Bear, so next week I’m off to the National Rifle Association to learn all about guns and how to use them safely.
After three weeks on the ship Antigua I will disembark (that means get off a ship) at Longyearbyen, and then I’m on my own!
For one month I’m going to stay in Sarah’s hut on the beach while she carries on sailing. I’ve rented another room to be my art studio and I will get on with finding things out, writing the book and drawing the pictures to illustrate it.
There is a lot to discover about the plants and animals of Svalbard as well as the ice and the sea. Will it be covered in snow when I get there? Will I see icebergs floating around? Do they have cars or snowmobiles, or just dogs pulling sleds?
There are people doing jobs like training sled dogs and manning weather stations, I’d like to find out what they do and how they do it. And what about the children at school in Svalbard, how do they cope in the days when it never gets light?
If you have any questions please let me know.
So. That is what I’m doing in the Arctic Circle and I will keep reporting as I go.