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- It’s extremely exotic!

- It’s extremely exotic!

Guro Skjelderup

Meet the Svalbardian Guro who brought her family and moved to the Polar Night

The Skjelderup family visited Svalbard for the first time back in 2014 because of their eldest son’s fascination with dinosaurs and ichthyosaurs (fish lizards). After 20 trips, Guro took the step of moving to Svalbard and the Polar Night with her sons August (12) and Ludvig (9). In this interview, you will meet the photographer who thinks the most wonderful aspect of Svalbard is the light and the silence of the Polar Night.

“Six years ago we got some money from Grandma for Christmas with a message to do something together. I remember asking August, who was six at the time, what he wanted to spend this money on. ‘I want to go to Svalbard,’ he responded, so we came here,” says Guro.

They landed at 2 a.m. one August day, and shed tears as they disembarked the aircraft and walked the short distance to the arrival hall.

“I was caught completely off guard. It’s the best holiday we have ever had together. The first thing I did when I got home was to find reasons to return to Svalbard.”

Guro has worked as a photographer for the past decade. After having arranged photo trips, photo workshops and photography assignments, she found that they might as well move to Longyearbyen and return to the mainland when necessary, instead of the other way around. Shortly after New Year 2020, she and her sons once again stood at the airport with tears in their eyes. However, this time they only had a one-way ticket. Moving north in the middle of the darkest period of the Polar Night has by no means scared the mother of two.

“To me, it’s as if the Polar Night is surrounded by peace, silence and tranquillity. The Polar Night doesn’t make any demands. You can sit inside in the middle of the day and light candles. You forget about the sun! It only took a short time before it was buried in my consciousness. I thought it would tamper with my circadian rhythm or that it would be difficult to fall asleep at night, but it just feels genuinely good and pleasant.”

Although many think of the Polar Night as dark, from time to time the moonlight and Northern Lights illuminate the sky, and you should not forget the light that occurs when the sun gets close to the horizon in January.

“That beats everything! The pastel colours at that time of the year are hard to put into words and simply must be experienced. We talk about the Arctic silence and it’s almost as if it’s even more deafening because it’s so beautiful. As it’s often not that cold, so you can spend a long time outside.”

One of Guru’s best memories of the Polar Night relates to an overnight trip to a small cabin outside Longyearbyen.

“As we lay on our backs in the snow wearing warm snowmobile suits, the Northern Lights above us were so intense that I felt it coming and stroking us on our cheeks. It made me feel small. I also went dog sledding in the dark with August when he was seven years old. When he sat in front of me on the sled and he swept his mitten down into the snow, I felt his sense of presence and how he was absorbing the experiences. That’s when I realised that Svalbard had made an impression on the children as well.”

Guro has some good tips for people planning to visit Longyearbyen during the wintertime.

“Remember to use a reflective vest and headlamp! Few places on earth are as dark as it is here! It’s extremely exotic! I like the Polar Night far more than I thought. In order to appreciate the light, you must have experienced the darkness.”

Even though the Polar Night invites you to sit by the fire with a hot drink in your hand all day long, Longyearbyen’s restaurants and bars have paved the way for something completely different.

“There’s so much happening in Longyearbyen,” she says.


With a vibrant cultural life, festivals and concerts, a lot takes place in and outside Longyearbyen throughout the entire Polar Night.

“Go on a trip in the mountains and enjoy the view of Longyearbyen in the dark. Attend a wilderness evening at Camp Barentz, which is a very nice and authentic experience. And don’t forget to go on a dog sledding trip. The silence is more noticeable during the Polar Night, so silent activities are great. When you go dog sledding, you also get to greet the latest litter of puppies, which is a wonderful experience,” recommends Guro.

She points out that while the Northern Lights are very beautiful, it’s important to be careful not to emphasize the Northern Lights too much because, as it’s a natural phenomenon, there are no guarantees of seeing it.

“The light during the Polar Night before the sun peaks over horizon has fascinated me so much, but I have discovered that September and October are also very nice. You’re on the same side of the sun as in February and have the burning red tundra with a little drop of snow on the peaks. It’s easy to experience the beautiful landscape by boat.”

As a portrait and family photographer, the darkest period of the Polar Night is not so easy to work with, but this is something Guro is very relaxed about. She is pleased to spend the Polar Night recharging her batteries before being extremely busy the rest of the year photographing bridal couples, families and, naturally, the beautiful Svalbard nature.

“Everything occurs at a slower pace here in the outermost part of the world. It’s as if the darkness says: Take it easy, breathe, you’re not in a hurry.” Here, in a small pocket of light in an otherwise darkened Arctic, you will discover the silence. I have longed to find this silence for as long as I can remember. Everything is so pristine, clean and the air is so fresh. Since there are fewer choices and as we are so close to nature, we get closer to life itself,” says Guro, before concluding:

“In summary, Svalbard is a feeling one cannot describe. I can’t explain why. You simply need to come here to understand.”

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