The Arctic isn’t as inaccessible as people think, according to polar explorer Børge Ousland. He recommends Svalbard, a cluster of islands located about halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. There are six weekly flights to Svalbard from Olso.
More than half of the mountainous archipelago is encased in ice, with many islets and fjords. Seven national parks and 22 nature reserves protect 65 percent of the island and 75 percent of the marine areas of Svalbard. The islands were originally used as a whaling base but have become a hot spot for Arctic tourism. Popular activities include dogsledding, snowmobiling, trekking on skis, ice caving, kayaking, and sailing aboard ice reenforced yachts. “You can choose from various trips, guided or self-guided,” says Ousland. “I did a nice trip there this summer, crossing the North East Land.”
North East Land, or Nordaustlandet, is the second largest island in Svalbard and lies entirely within the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. The uninhabited island is home to one of Europe’s largest glaciers, Austfonna.
One of the world’s greatest living polar explorers, Norwegian Børge Ousland has been embarking on game-changing expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica for more than 20 years. He was the first and only person to complete a solo expedition to the North Pole without a resupply, as well as the first to cross the Antarctic continent alone. His team was the first to reach the North Pole during winter, an expedition previously thought impossible due to constant darkness and extreme cold. Read his Adventurers of the Year profile.
Børge Ousland's Gear Pick: Nalgene Bottle
“I think my most appreciated piece of gear is my pee bottle. Without it, these long cold trips would be difficult—can you imagine getting out of your sleeping bag at night in minus 40? You only want to do that once, and that is when you wake up.” Ousland prefers a lightweight-plastic Nalgene bottle.