Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020

Svalbarði's most recent ice gathering expedition took place September 13-15. We sailed north out of communications range into the wilderness of Norway's Svalbard islands.

Arriving just at the 79° north line, we gathered fresh iceberg pieces in stunning Arctic surroundings of glaciers, fjords and bare rocky mountains. It was another reminder of how beautiful our arctic home truly is and why our mission to save it by sharing a little piece of it with you is so important.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
The map showing our exact route from Longyearbyen to Lillehöokfjorden and Kongsfjorden

We set sail around 7pm on the expedition ship MS Origo heading towards the remote fjords of northwest Svalbard. The trip started with great weather, blue skies and pink clouds. On this year's voyage were Jamal Qureshi and Marie Husøy from Svalbarði, drone pilot Lisa-Marie Bolin, and the skilled crew of MS Origo lead by captain Emil Heijel.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
The view from the MS Origo expedition ship as we sailed out of Longyearbyen

First stop - Lilliehöökfjorden

After sailing north for 12-plus hours and a good night's sleep, we arrived in the Lilliehöök fjord. At the very top of the fjord we were met by the Lilliehöökbreen glacier. Svalbarði's last visit here was more than six years ago in the summer of 2014. Back then founder Jamal Qureshi was gathering initial ice core samples to confirm the quality of the iceberg water at multiple locations for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. The beauty remains as Jamal remembered it as the roughly 50-metre-tall glacier front towered over us.

When we arrived we realized the glacier was not calving much. Only a few icebergs were floating in the fjord, making it difficult to be sufficiently selective in the matter of size and shape.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
Photos: Lisa-Marie Bolin

We lifted two icebergs into the Origo for inspection. But we quickly decided we would not manage to get enough ice from this fjord and released the ice pieces back into the sea, and find another iceberg destination.

Drone pilot on board

Our drone pilot, Lisa-Marie Bolin, works at KSAT (Kongsberg Satellite Services) in Svalbard, where she uses drones to inspect the arctic terrain and discover potential avalanche risks.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
Drone pilot Lisa-Marie Bolin and Svalbarði founder Jamal Qureshi. Photo: Marie Husøy

She joined us to take photos and videos of the ice-gathering, and to simply enjoy the breathtaking nature. We stayed at Lillehöökbreen for a couple of hours so Lisa-Marie could capture some stunning drone shots, as our next destination had drone restrictions due to scientific research requiring there be no electronic signals in the area.

ice expedition trip in svalbard

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
Over a kilometre distance from the ship to the glacier

Second stop - Kongsfjorden

After inspecting and releasing the icebergs from Lillehöökfjorden we sailed for another three hours before reaching Kongsfjorden. At the very end of the fjord there are multiple glaciers, giving us many to chose from.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020
Arrival at Kongsfjorden, met by lots of icebergs

Five years ago we harvested icebergs from the nearby Kronebreen glacier. It had a large selection of well-preserved ancient icebergs, with particularly low mineral content. This time we decided to gather icebergs in a location situated right at the intersection of Conwaybreen and Kongsbreen ("King's Glacier"), both of which were calving large amounts of small icebergs. Conwaybreen is named after 19th-century British explorer Sir Martin Conway, who was the first to map the glaciers in the region.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020

How we carefully select each iceberg

Collecting icebergs involves hazardous work from dusk to dawn. It takes time to locate the right quality icebergs as they have to be of the perfect size, shape and texture. It's hard to say if the iceberg is perfect before we take a closer look, as most of each iceberg is under the water line.

An ideal iceberg features soft corners and an even pattern of air bubbles, indicating the ice is as fresh as the day it fell as snow up to 4000 years ago. If the ice has no bubbles it means the ice may have melted and refrozen, potentially exposing it to modern pollutants.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020

To get an iceberg on board the ship we have to capture it safely in the net, which can be tricky. They float by quickly, and the shape and size can make it challenging to get the whole iceberg inside the net.

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020

After securing it with the net we use the crane to lift the iceberg onboard. If the iceberg is more than 1,2 tonnes, the crane on the Origo will not be able to lift it up. If the weight is within limits we still have to see if it fits in the bin. If the size matches and it fits in the bin, there is another struggle to get the net out from below the gigantic iceberg. As you might guess, not an easy manoeuvre.

We had a skilled and efficient crew helping us out. The sun went down and created an amazing show in the sky, fading over the ocean and the thousands of icebergs floating by as Jamal and the Origo team finished gathering. 

Collecting Ice From Svalbard - Iceberg Expedition 2020

After the sun went down we had a delicious meal before going to bed, tired and with a smile on our faces while the ship headed home south. Fourteen hours later we were back at port in Longyearbyen and ready to start lifting all the icebergs onto the dock to be transported to cold storage.

In total, we gathered 10 icebergs weighing a combined 6,3 tonnes. We look forward to sharing the taste of these fresh icebergs with you. You can order your bottle of Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water here.