Sunniva Sorby’s Arctic isolation

Episode 40

Sunniva Sorby spent two winters living in total isolation on the Norwegian Arctic island of Svalbard to raise awareness of the massive impact climate change is having on our polar regions

  • Published May 31, 2022
  • Updated Jun 01
Sunniva Sorby in Svalbard aboard the ship that took her to Bamsebu, the cabin where she isolated for over a year and a half, studying the Arctic environment. (Photo: Tanya Kirnishni)
Expand Image

During the pandemic, it’s safe to say most of us spent some time self-isolating, but not quite in the way our guest today did.

Polar explorer and RCGS Fellow Sunniva Sorby spent over a year and a half, including two long winters, in an uninsulated 1930 trapper’s hut on the Arctic island of Svalbard, which is halfway to the North Pole from northern Norway.

Along with her Norwegian colleague, Hilde Falun Strom, they set a record with their all-women project, called Hearts in the Ice, for their time spent in their isolated outpost while doing scientific research for NASA, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the British Columbia Technical Institute, among others. Their work focused on bringing attention to the massive impact climate change is having on our polar regions. 

And now they are about to do another Hearts in the Ice project, this time at Cambridge Bay in Canada’s High Arctic.

Born in Norway and raised in Canada, Sunniva Sorby has spent decades carrying out expeditions in the Arctic and especially the Antarctic. She was part of the first ever all-woman team to reach the South Pole.

Learn more about the Hearts in the Ice project.


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Fishing boat on the shore of Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Science & Tech

Hearts in the Ice: History and culture

From coal mining to scientific research, the remote archipelago of Svalbard has a rich and complex heritage

  • 1287 words
  • 6 minutes
Glacier on Svalbard, Norway


Hearts in the Ice: Citizen Science

From phytoplankton to drones, citizen science in the remote Svalbard wilderness is contributing to research around the world

  • 988 words
  • 4 minutes
Two female adventurers prepare to overwinter in Svalbard

Science & Tech

Q&A: Why two female adventurers are preparing to overwinter in Svalbard, Norway

Sunniva Sorby and Hilde Fålun Strøm share details of their “Hearts in the Ice” project and why they want to inject hope into the conversation about climate change 

  • 1123 words
  • 5 minutes
polar bear mother and her young cub


Hearts in the Ice: Biodiversity and our oceans

Two adventurers have extended their stay in isolation in Svalbard, Norway to continue gathering wildlife observations in the remote Arctic

  • 865 words
  • 4 minutes