, South Africa (PressExposure) December 16, 2008 -- Remote, mysterious, extreme, the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen is the European doorway into the High Arctic. Part of the Svalbard archipelago, it is a land forged by ice and wind, ocean and snow, and by the endless days and endless nights of the polar seasons. Barely populated and bereft of roads, the only way to experience the mysterious majesty of Spitsbergen is from the sea and on foot. Sixty percent of the archipelago is covered in glaciers and snowfields - the rest is jagged peak, Arctic desert and bitter tundra. Treeless and exposed, the island provides a sanctuary for some of the rarest and hardiest flora and fauna on earth. During the months of high summer, polar bears can be seen at close hand as they roam the wastes in search or food. This supreme, solitary predator covers vast distances, and females can be observed sheltering their young in caves and coves along the coast. Spitsbergen is also home to white-furred Arctic foxes, reindeer, seals and walruses. The tiny capital Longyearbyen is far closer to the North Pole than any costal base in the Antarctica is to the South Pole. Yet the Gulf Stream manages to warm the local people as well as the breezes off the Greenland Sea, and the town has a buzzing, ski-town feel. There are schools, shops, restaurants, coal mines, even a spot office dotted around Spitsbergen, as well as dozens of fascination historic sites. The main voyages to Spitsbergen are relaxed and suitable for most people of reasonable fitness. On the Svalbard Ultimate Adventure tours and expedition experience for those looking for some physical activity. These include camping by frozen glaciers, participating in an over-night polar bear watch and spending days hiking or kayaking amidst the timeless grandeur of one of the last true wildernesses left on earth.
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