Written by Jorge Oliver and Sponsored by Silversea Cruises
Most people would point to larger-than-life creatures – like the majestic polar bear or the hardy walrus – when selecting their favourite denizen of the Arctic. But Conrad Combrink, Silversea’s Vice President of Expeditions, Turnaround Operations and Destination Management, chooses instead a seemingly unassuming and relatively unknown bird: the Arctic Tern.
Labelling them as “small, resilient, spectacular creatures,” Combrink highlights that what this nearly monochromatic seabird lacks in size, it more than makes up in sturdiness. Each year, the small-feathered voyager completes roundtrip journeys of 70,000 to 90,000 kilometres (43,000 to 56,000 miles) from pole to pole, by far the longest migration in the animal kingdom.
Much like the Arctic Tern, Combrink has clocked extensive mileage during his decades exploring the planet’s most remote and exotic destinations, from Antarctica to the Russian Far East. And some of his earliest expedition journeys began in the Arctic; in Greenland, to be exact.
“I love Greenland. I spent a couple of summers working up there on an expedition ship and I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of this destination; I had no expectations,” says Combrink. “The amount of icebergs, the scenery, the fjord systems, the local communities… every single day is different. You wake up and the scenery around you changes constantly. I always look for opportunities to include this destination in our itineraries.”
The opportunity is set to arrive in 2022, when Silversea will not only reintroduce voyages to the world’s largest island, but will also expand its coverage by tacking a larger swath of the western coast, from Nuuk to Uumannaq. Also on the cards is a return to Svalbard, Norway’s high latitude archipelago located well north of the Arctic Circle.
Kayaking at Magdalenefjorden Svalbard, copyright Denis Elterman
“Svalbard is a fantastic introduction to the Arctic,” says Combrink. “A truly deserted archipelago with incredible landscapes, polar bears, walrus, whales… and, of course, the ice. We’ll go up to 80 degrees north, depending on the ice conditions, so we may find ourselves anywhere from 400 to 600 miles from the north pole!” Among the various itineraries that will visit Svalbard, Silversea introduced a new 6-day voyage that offers a condensed jaunt to the icy archipelago.