“If I have two or three minutes spare, I generally manage to take a few shots.”
Published: 27.03.2020 Updated: 03.07.2020
Arctic Ocean, August 2018: The air temperature is two or three degrees Celsius, and the sun is shining on the deck of Kronprins Haakon. Able-bodied seaman Andreas Wolden is using the winch to collect water samples for the researchers, when the bridge reports that something has been sighted on the ice.
A female polar bear and her cub are heading towards the ship. They don’t stop until they are right beside it.
Wolden and all of the researchers stop what they’re doing. Or rather, in Wolden’s case, he gets out his camera and starts snapping away.
Situations like this in the polar desert are an important reason why Wolden applied for the job the previous year.
A chance to visit remote places
Wolden is a trained able-bodied seaman and self-taught photographer. He used to work on an anchor-handling tug that towed oil platforms, but when he saw that the Institute of Marine Research was hiring crew members, he didn’t hesitate.
He had to apply.
“I realised the opportunities the job would give me. We go to places that few other people get to see, like the North Pole and Antarctica. I would never have seen those places if I didn’t have this job”, says Wolden.
Initially he worked on the research vessel Kristine Bonnevie, which he enjoyed, but before long he ended up on his dream ship: the new Kronprins Haakon.
Jack of all trades
On board “Krompen”, the crew’s nickname for the new icebreaker, Wolden is an able-bodied seaman first and foremost. That means he operates whichever piece of deck equipment the researchers need at any given time.
“If they want a water sample, we have to make sure that the water sample is brought up”, says Wolden.
His tasks vary in response to what the researchers need.
“Our work depends on what they’re doing. That can be anything from trawling and taking water samples to putting people out on the ice, either by boat or by parking the main ship in the ice and lowering the gangway.”
Learns lots from the researchers
One of the bonuses of the job is that Wolden is becoming more knowledgeable.
“It’s interesting going to the labs and seeing what they do. The researchers are happy to explain what they’re up to, so we learn a lot.”
He also feels that the job is a bit more rewarding than his old job in the offshore sector.
“I feel like I’m making more of a contribution with respect to research, climate change and the environment in this job than I was in the oil industry. My current job is more rewarding. And it’s important”, he says.
Amazing light at night
The crew on the Kronprins Haakon have an 8-4-4-8 shift pattern. Eight hours on, four hours off, four hours on, eight hours off. They swap shifts between each voyage. So on one trip they work day shifts, and on the next one they work nights.
“I actually prefer doing nights. The light is absolutely amazing. And the Arctic summer with the midnight sun is something special”, says Wolden.
However, sometimes the able-bodied seaman Wolden gets in the way of the photographer Wolden.
“As a photographer, one of my problems is that I see potential pictures everywhere. There are lots of times I’ve thought ‘I wish I had my camera now’, but I can’t just stop what I’m in the middle of doing”, he says.
Always has his camera close to hand
Because when he’s on deck, photography has to take a back seat.
“I have a job that needs doing first. But if a polar bear comes along, the work generally stops anyway. The researchers focus completely on the bear as well, so I have time to take some pictures.
His camera, a full-frame Nikon, is always close to hand.
“I make use of any opportunities I have. If I have two or three minutes spare, I generally manage to take a few shots”, he says.
His highlight is the bottom of the planet
When asked about the highlight of his various trips with “Krompen”, he doesn’t hesitate:
“Antarctica! There was something really special about the enormous icebergs and the wildlife. You could see one iceberg with several hundred penguins on it”, says Wolden, referring to the voyage he went on in the early months of 2019.
“And meeting polar bears is just as exciting every time. I never tire of seeing polar bears.”
Only 100 photos are better than OK
After each voyage, Wolden generally comes back with 2,000-3,000 new photos, but only a few of them make the cut.
“Of the photos, there may be 100 that I think are better than OK. I’m pretty self-critical about what I define as a very good photo”, says Wolden.
Wolden shares many of the photos from his trips to the Arctic and Antarctica on Instagram, where they are enjoyed by over 3,000 followers. He has also won several photography contests. In both 2019 and 2020 he won the Norwegian Maritime Authority’s big, annual photography competition.
Back home in the Lofoten archipelago between trips, he also spends a lot of time taking photos, particularly at the surfers’ paradise Unstad.
“I take quite a lot of surfing pictures when I’m at home”, says Wolden, who has sold his pictures to several magazines over the past few years.
Perhaps you’ve seen some of them when you’ve flown with Widerøe or taken the coastal ferry service Hurtigruten.