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In Focus

‘Arctic weather? You haven’t really experienced it until you have been in its frozen beauty’

As we face some of the coldest weather of the year, travel writer and author Lizzie Pook explains why the Arctic blast feels very different when you are in Greenland or beyond. Beguiled by the icy Far North, she explains why she kept returning to its magnificent beauty – and how it became the evocative backdrop for her new book, ‘Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge’

Saturday 13 January 2024 07:00 GMT
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The Arctic is the most inspiring of landscapes
The Arctic is the most inspiring of landscapes (Getty/iStock)

It began with the faintest glimpse of fur, sighted through rain-splattered binoculars one cold, pink morning. I stood on the ice-rimed deck of the ship, fingers numb from the merciless wind, and raised the lenses to look again. There was no mistaking it: peeking out from the top of a snowdrift on a shingly beach, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, was the fur of a polar bear. The first I had ever seen.

That trip to the east coast of Greenland, through the tendrilous, otherworldly fjord systems of Scoresbysund, changed my life. We were a small ship of just 13 passengers, without contact with any other humans for the best part of two weeks. It was just us and inky waters roiling with humpbacks, icebergs passing like cathedrals of geode crystals and shaggy muskoxen dotting the mountainsides. It was a place where time stood still, where we were able to explore fjords that hadn’t seen visitors since Inuit hunters paddled their canoes through hundreds of years ago. And as that polar bear took to its huge paws and raised a coal-black nose to the air, I knew a new love affair was about to begin. The Arctic had me in its grip.

This wasn’t my first time in the Arctic, but it is the moment my interest tipped over into obsession. After that, I travelled north whenever I could, taking on any commission that meant I could spend more time in this beguiling part of the world. In the very north of Iceland’s Troll Peninsula, kissing the outer edges of the Arctic circle, I hiked mountains and watched the silky green northern lights perform their dance. From the deck of an electric ship in Norway’s Skjervoy, I marvelled at hunting orca and mighty sea eagles dive-bombing fat bait balls for their dinner. An epic trip to sub-Arctic Canada and the remote town of Churchill, on the banks of Hudson Bay, gifted me the chance to helicopter over polar bear habitat, gawping at land striated like Vienetta, and dozens of bears making their way across the ice.

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