A good paddling: Trio overcomes aggressive bears, ice-filled waters in first kayak trip around Spitsbergen completes first circum

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Three kayakers completed what they say is the first circumnavigation of Spitsbergen by kayak, returning to Longyearbyen on Saturday after paddling 2,200 kilometers in 71 days.

“I had dreamt of doing a trip like this since I was a kid,” wrote Jaime Sharp, a New Zealand native who first envisioned the trip six year ago, in an essay summarizing the expedition. “Arctic exploration in my mind is the plateau of any pursuit and of course every adventurer dreams of claiming a ‘world first.’ Even after watching the failed attempts previously over the last six years, I was still drawn to do the trip, and this year it all fell into place as if it was meant to be.”

Tara Mulvany, also of New Zealand, and Per Gustav Porsanger from Norway also participated in the trip.

Numerous attempts to circle the island by kayak have been made. The most recent was in 2010 when two Norwegian paddlers were forced to abandon their quest after one was injured by a polar bear that dragged the man out from his tent.

The trio this summer spotted about 40 bears, several which had to be scared away with rifle and signal pistol shots, according to Sharp.

“The most intense encounter required 13 rifle rounds and six flash bangs to repel a single bear, only to have yet another one come at the group only a minute later,” he wrote.

Another major challenge was a 180-kilometer uninterrupted glacial front, which took more than two days – including 26 hours of continuous paddling at one point – in the ice-choked waters.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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