Oceanwide Expeditions has been operating for more than 25 years, using vessels formerly purposed for research to take their guests deep into the Arctic and Antarctic are offering beach clean up shore excursions.
Their marketing and sales manager Franklin Braeckman has experienced this beauty firsthand, telling EuroNewsGreen of his love for the regions as he watches a mother polar bear and her cub walking on the North Pole ice.
“It’s a moment where you realise how small you are, how fragile it all is and how beautiful it all is. It’s mind-blowing.
“When you see huge icebergs or you see polar bears on the pack ice…it’s a moment where the passengers all keep quiet and all you hear is the click of a few lenses.”
This genuine adoration for the environment, of course, creates the constant dilemma of attempting to carry out their expeditions without disturbing the beautiful ecosystems that make them possible.
Oceanwide do more than prevent their guests from damaging the environment, but rather involve them in its conservation.
Every year Oceanwide undertakes a collaborative initiative with the Svalbard governor and Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, which involves passengers cleaning up the waste themselves from the Svalbard beaches.
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago between Norway and the North Pole and is one of the northernmost inhabited areas, experiencing 24 hours of sunlight on summer days and the piercing green of the Northern Lights on winter ones.
However, unfortunately Svalbard experiences the wash up of plastic waste from industrial fishing. In August 2019, Oceanwide removed 1000kg worth of plastic waste from a Svalbard beach and Mr Braeckman sees this as not just an important endeavour but as part of a wider mission of promoting sustainable and conscious travel.
“Whatever we find when we go on land we bring it back with us,” he says.
“It’s like when you’re walking in the woods and you find a plastic bag. You can’t pretend you haven’t seen it and you have a choice: you leave it there or you just take it. It’s such a small thing.”
Other expedition companies such as Hurtigruten carry out similar conservation initiatives. Hurtigruten also does beach clean ups, targeting selected locations and removing several metric tonnes of trash every year, as well as partnering with organisations for conservation and research work.
Hurtigruten has also removed single-use plastic from its operations, designed hybrid powered ships with green technology such as MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen and has pledged to reduce food waste by 30% in 2021.