John and Karen Clarke ’77 in the Arctic

John and Karen Clarke '77 in the Arctic Circle.

Alumni couple John and Karen Clarke ’77 traveled to the Arctic Circle in another quest on their post-retirement adventures.

John Clarke ’77 and Karen (Benz) Clarke ’77 continued their post retirement adventures, following their respective careers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Delta Airlines. The most recent adventure took them to the Northern Hemisphere as they checked off the final unexplored Arctic Circle on their list.

Read the following for John Clarke’s perspective on the trip to the Arctic.

We arrived in Oslo on June 22 and waited for our charter to depart to Longyearbyen the next day. Saw some incredible views of Fjords on the flight over. After getting soaked by frigid waters during our zodiac trip to our ship, we departed on June 23 to traverse the Svalbard archipelago.

Arctic Cave

During the trip we visited numerous fjords, hiked on glaciers, toured sea caves in sea kayaks, and saw seals, walrus, reindeer, and two polar bears. One day we traveled to 80-degrees north, to the edge of sea ice. Our Silverseas ship wasn’t an ice breaker so we couldn’t venture deep into the sea ice region. However, we got in our zodiacs and travelled in the fog along the ice edge. This is the closest to a pole we have ever travelled. Our earlier trip to the Antarctic only reached 64.5 degrees south due to colder conditions and denser ice pack in the Weddell Sea.

During our voyage, temperatures were in the 30s and 40s, never falling below freezing. Effects of global warming were much more evident than in the Antarctic region. Glaciers were clearly retreating and tour guides mentioned how snow-capped peaks had diminished in extent. They also mentioned how the bays we travelled in previously froze over in winter, but no longer do. We noticed that wildlife seemed much less abundant than in the Antarctic and were surprised to never see a whale.

The Longyearbyen area has been a coal mining region for years, exporting coal via ship. Recently, the coal mining operations were ceased. Norway is supplied electrical power entirely by renewable resources, principally hydroelectric. The last remaining coal-powered plant was at Longyearbyen, but that is being discontinued. Electricity will be generated by diesel until a renewable source can be established.

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