Alone On Bear Island
Saturday, July 4, 2015
We’re alone at the ends of the earth.
Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Explorer dropped anchor off Sorhamna, Bear Island this morning shortly before 7 a.m., resting in the shadow of the island’s towering cliff faces that have remained unchanged for centuries.
Technically part of Norway and the Svalbard Archipelago, you’ll have to really hunt to find Bear Island – or Bjørnøya in Norwegian – on a map. It’s but a mere speck halfway between Svalbard and Norway’s North Cape. Latitude-wise, it clocks in roughly halfway up Greenland, at latitude 74°N. That puts it farther north than Barrow, Alaska (71°N) and just behind Ellesmere Island in Canada’s High Arctic at 83°N.
Bear Island was first discovered (bumbled upon, really) in 1596 by William Barents and Jacob van Heemskerk. As uncomplicated as its discovery, it was so named because both men saw a polar bear swimming nearby. Early polar exploration didn’t leave a lot of time for creative thinking; everyone was too busy trying to not freeze to death