80° North – A Svalbard Odyssey

The Arctic desolation and the force of nature does something to your mind and the perception of self and life, as you are reminded of your unimportance in the moving of events. Svalbard has the notion of a holy place, the mythical Shambala, the pure land of the Buddhist that western explorers searched for in Asia but never found.

At the 80th parallel north, rain and snow are always in the air when the short autumn season give way to winter. Ice and snow and wind. Cold air from the polar ice cap, just nine hundred kilometers to the north: a premonition of danger. The hostile environment will claim an uncareful life. 

As low clouds move in and the sun settles for good, fog and darkness engulfs the snow covered mountains rising above the ocean. No illuminated houses on land, no cars or airplanes. No light pollution from cities.  Man is a marginal presence in the Arctic, a temporary guest at the mercy of the wilderness leading a fragile life based on extracting and burning coal. A lonely existence.

Svalbard is barren, rugged and desolate. Glaciers and streams shape mountain ridges and valleys. Rivers bring sediments into deltas. It is like the beginning of time, as if the volcanic eruptions and continental shifts only just ended. It is a looking glass into Earth’s past: how it was before mankind, and how it will be after we are long gone. Untouched. Epic.

Want more? The book “80° North” is a photographic story of Svalbard and Spitsbergen, the cluster of islands close to the North Pole. Included are more than 120 unique images, offering a contemplating read.