Svalbard is in the arctic circle north of the fishing ground of my Sami Norwegian forebearers. My people left Tromso, in the land of the midnight sun, and the life of indigenous fishermen for America in the mid-1800's. In my soul, I keep journeying back.
On this map it is easy for the eye to travel from Tromso to Svalbard and farther up to the North Pole. Both arctic locations signal climate changes to the rest of the planet.
Photo © Davide Voltolini. All rights reserved. Published with permission.
Visit Davide's website for more photos of his visit to Svalbard in 2005. I love the composition of his shots. Davide's blog is written in Italian.
The New York Times recently published a book titled: The North Pole Was Here by Andrew Revkin. The book is aimed at kids age 10 and up (grade 5 and up). The NYT has the first chapter on their website.
I think Revkin did an excellent job of weaving travel narrative and scientific fact into a book that kept me reading. As his plane arrives at the North Pole, Revkin describes, "Finally, the pilot says we are nearing our destination. The plane’s shadow grows as we descend. We are all overheated and sweating, stuffed into puffy layers of clothing and huge insulated boots. But no one else seems quite as nervous as I am about what is coming. In a few moments, the pilot is going to set this fifteen-ton rubber-tired airplane down on a rough runway carved into the sea ice. The crew and scientists around me, who have done this for several years in a row, are munching peanut butter sandwiches and apples, reading books, chatting. I tighten my seatbelt. The Arctic has claimed many of the people who have been brave enough, or crazy enough, to press north. I wonder if the ice will hold, or if it will crack open and swallow the plane."
A little further in the first chapter of, The North Pole Was Here, Revkin states, "My boots scrunch. It takes a few moments before I remember I am walking on floating ice that is drifting about four hundred yards an hour over an ocean two miles deep––deep enough that ten Empire State Buildings could be stacked beneath us without breaking the surface. I am standing at the earth’s last real edge, the last place where people cannot get very comfortable for very long."
Revkin continues, "To celebrate getting here, one scientist who arrived a couple of days before us, Jim Johnson, erected a red-and-white-striped barber pole and a sign that said NORTH POLE IS HERE.
"But after a day or so, Johnson changed the wording, so that the sign now reads NORTH POLE WAS HERE.
"The past tense is meant as a joke. The drift of the ice guarantees that anyone who is at the North Pole at one moment is not there a few minutes later.
"But the sign also reflects the broader and much more profound idea that confronts everyone up here: that the unreachable, unchanging North Pole of our imagination, history, maps, and lore no longer exists."
Excerpt from The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World, by Andrew Revkin. Available for purchase from amazon.com .
A Houghton Mifflin Company imprint.
222 Berkeley Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
Copyright © 2006 by The New York Times All rights reserved.
First published in 2006
Photo © Kanonn. Published in accord with the Creative Commons License. Zoo: Nagoya, Japan.