We arrived at Gnalodden in the early afternoon. What a perfect place to introduce us to Svalbard’s landscape and history! After a scouting team went on shore to make sure we could safely explore, we disembarked with our Zodiacs onto a spectacular spot covered by beautiful purple saxifrage flowers. A tall hanging cliff buzzing with the calls of hundreds of kittiwakes dominated the landscape. The colourful landscape of this corner of Hornsund took us by surprise, with yellow and green mosses and lichens, purple and pink flowers, and blues from the nearby glacial ice and the dramatic skies. The small coves and beaches were interrupted by large boulders that only made this place more interesting to explore.

The remains of a Norwegian trapper hut that is no longer in use offered us interesting photo opportunities. Farther down the beach, we came upon the foundation of another trapper hut from earlier times, built and used by Pomor trappers back in the 18th century. Landing at Gnalodden let us experience the history of human presence in this remote archipelago of the High Arctic.

At some point during our landing, a skittish arctic fox made a swift appearance among some of us; it was an astonishing wildlife encounter that no one could have anticipated, one that served as a reminder of how unpredictable and magical these moments are.