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The image of Shackleton’s ship bound in the Arctic ice is one of the most enduring of all polar photographs. There is a similar dramatic composition to be found in Svalbard, where a century-old schooner sits in icy polar paralysis – the only hotel of its kind on the planet. Truly a destination hotel, you’ll reach the Basecamp Ship in the Ice after a long and gorgeous glide across the glaciers and icefields of Svalbard, on dogsled or snowmobile. The elegant masts come into view first, followed by the rigging and then the conspicuous crimson elegance of the Noordelicht’s hull haemorrhaging in the snow.
Space on board is at a premium, so the evening meal – a robust and rib-sticking affair – is a communal affair, shared with the crew and fellow guests. A fully-licenced bar adds to the fun, and to the profound thrill of being isolated, stranded, marooned, with only your fellow sailors for company amidst the Arctic emptiness: a lock-in of epic proportions.
Entering the ship, the world flips into warmth. No longer is the wind whistling around your ears, the cold seeping in through every available opening. The interior is a cocoon of low-ceilinged cosiness, and the antique implements and intricate charts that adorn the walls enhance the comforting period ambience. A night here is not one you’ll spend marvelling at the largesse of your suite, but it is one you’ll spend in utter still snugness on a ship not disturbed by the pitching and rolling of the waves.
Walk the plank and fall into the tranquil sublimity of Tempelfjorden, its rugged powder blue cliffs and sheer zebra-striped ridges aligning under the heavens to create a layered vista interrupted only by the occasional hulk of a polar bear, or the scattergun spread of a seal pod. This landscape extends forever, so hop on a sled or a snowmobile and soak it all in.