When you visit Svalbard you can hardly escape seeing a glacier. Around 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and when you visit us during the winter, there is a great chance that you will cross one by snowmobile or dog sled. When you stand on a seemingly flat plateau of snow and ice, it is difficult to imagine that the frozen wonderland that can be found under the surface.
The ice cave changes from year to year, and you never know what type of formations the glacier may have created this time around. We will be picked up by snowcat, and head up onto the ‘Longyear Glacier’, right above Longyearbyen. Longyearbreen is a landlocked glacier, filling the valley between two mighty mountains. It is not a long drive, but once you make your way up onto the glacier, you will be rewarded by stunning views over Longyearbyen and the imposing Hiorthfjellet on the other side of the fjord. The entrance to the ice cave is difficult to find, but the guide knows exactly where it is. In the middle of the white landscape, you will suddenly see a little opening and a stair leading you down into the magical world of ice and snow.
You will be equipped with a powerful headlamp, and as you follow one after the other into the narrow passage you will light up the ice. The cave changes from year to year, but generally we can walk a couple of hundred metres into the cave before the cave disappears, or becomes difficult to follow. Often, the passage open up to show a cathedral like world of snow and ice, and it is just fascinating.
Perhaps the guide will ask you to turn off your headlights. Without manmade light, you will not be able to see your own hand even if you wave it in front of your eyes, so complete is the darkness.
The glacier acts as an enormous climate archive. Each year, new layers of snow are stored, and pressed together as they sink into the glacier. If you bore an ice core from the glacier, you can see all the layers within, like a timeline with the eldest at the bottom, and newest at the top. Scientists analyse air bubbles and particles from these, and imagine that perhaps there might be a frozen dinosaur fossil down in the ice if we are lucky! The ice cave shows us a world that is hidden to most, but at the same time gives us a look into Svalbard’s history.
The adventure isn’t over when we come back to the outside world. The trip up and down to the ice cave is by snowcat, a unique and fun vehicle which swings its way up and down over the moraine. We will make a stop to take photos from the viewpoint over Longyearbyen, and you will be served a hot blackcurrant toddy and a biscuit or two. The perfect end to a magical winter adventure!
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