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Photo: Melissa Schäfer/Hubba Productions
Photo: Melissa Schäfer/Hubba Productions

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The seasons of Svalbard

In Svalbard, winter and summer are as different as night and day – literally. Polar expert Fredrik Granath and his partner, photographer Melissa Schäfer, have captured the changing seasons in the northern archipelago in a new series of stunning photos.

Photo: Melissa Schäfer/Hubba Productions

Winter

The king of the Arctic - the polar bear. These animals are at the top of the regional food chain. Polar bears, the largest bear species in the world, are marine animals and can swim great distances. But their true habitat is the dense drift ice and the ice of the frozen fjords and bays. According to Norsk Polarinstitutt there are less than a thousand polar bears living om Svalbard but the number varies.

Photo: Melissa Schäfer/Hubba Productions

Spring

Svalbard starts to emerge from the winter darkness in March when there is a daily average of 3.17 hours of daylight. April and May have the highest chance of sunshine with temperatures in May reaching highs of around -3°C.

There are only around 46km of roads in Svalbard and no roads between the various settle­ments. Driving off-road is strictly prohibited. Locals use snowmobiles, dogsleds or skis to get around in winter and boats during summer. Temperatures start rising above 0°C in June.

Photo: Melissa Schäfer/Hubba Productions

Spring/summer

While only the hardiest of Svalbard’s wildlife can be seen in winter, the island’s animals come out to play in spring and summer. April is the peak breeding time for polar bears, and groups can sometimes be seen together. May is the best month for heading out on the snow with a husky team to view Arctic birds and Svalbard reindeer. In June when the ice melts, it is possible to take a boat trip and see some of the 15 to 20 types of marine mammals that inhabit the islands, including whales, dolphins, seals and walruses.

Photo: Melissa Schäfer/Hubba Productions

Summer

Temperatures only rise above 0°C between June and August when there is 24 hours of daylight. July is the warmest month in Svalbard with temperatures averaging between 3°C to 7°C. The recession of the ice depends on a number of factors such as winter temperatures and wind direction. The degree to which the ice melts varies from year to year.

The Photographers

Fredrik Granath has been writing books, taking photos and making films of the Arctic region for the last 15 years. Over this period, he has acquired a unique expertise of working under the most extreme conditions from Canada to Russia and from Greenland to northern Scandinavia and Svalbard. He spends several months a year in the region and is currently working on a series of new books of the area with his partner, photographer Melissa Schäfer.

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Last edited: December 28, 2016

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