It’s June 25th, and I’m in the land of the midnight sun. More specifically, Svalbard, Norway. Svalbard is an archipelago (pronounced aar·kuh·peh·luh·gow) or a group of islands, north of Norway’s mainland, and just a hop, skip and jump from the North Pole. It’s chilly here, about 38 °F with a blinding sun.

I came here to do research for my ECO WARRIORS series, book 1 AT THE EDGE OF THE ICE. Friends and family wanted to know why—why must I travel to Smallbard? Slavbeard? Salbard? What was the place called again? I told them, it’s Sval-bard.

Wasn’t it a little extreme to travel to the North Pole just to see some sea ice? No. And technically it wasn’t the North Pole.

Couldn’t I just watch a bunch of YouTube videos and study Google images to get the same “feeling”? Already did that. I needed more.

Five months later, I was standing on the deck of a ship with 185 other passengers, most of whom came to see the archipelago’s wildlife like polar bears and walrus. My main priority was the sea ice because it was to be the setting of my entire story.

I had my pen, spiral notebook, and iPhone for capturing every little thing. My unconventional research techniques required me to use all five senses to gather crucial information. Even things that didn’t seem important at the time, but could be used later, were noted.

Sydney, my eleven year old main character, gains an ability to speak with animals. The purpose of her trip was to provide her mother, an environmental photographer, to photograph the polar bears. What would be the inciting incident that launches Sydney on her journey?  Something must happen for her to suddenly be able to speak with animals. I didn’t want her to have a near-death drowning. I didn’t want her to fall into the frigid water at all. How about a small bonk on the head? Something not serious enough that required medical care. But something life changing for the main character. Hmm.


My own Q & A:

Could a person stand on piece of ice and not sink? Yes. It depends on the type of ice. I saw a guy do it. What about walking on the sea ice shelf? Yes. In some places the sea ice seemed as stable as a sidewalk made of cement.

Would I be able to tell the difference between a slab of sea ice (salt water) versus a chunk of iceberg (frozen fresh water from glacier) just by looking at it? Sometimes.

What did ice feel like? It was cold. It was slippery. The ice stung my fingertips.

Were there any smells that stood out? Depends on where I was positioned on the zodiac. Up at the front, I could get a whiff of fish and general ocean smell. Back at the stern, gasoline and the motor’s exhaust covered everything.

What did the archipelago look like from the ship? The ship hugged the seemingly bare and brown coastline as we traveled from island to island. Outside of Longyearbyen’s harbor, there were no roads, no man-made signs, no trees. Just tundra, permafrost, snowcapped mountains, water, and floating ice.

How did the sea ice taste? Salty.

Was the sun really out at 11 pm? Yes. It was the summer solstice, the longest days of the year.  Was the sun still shining at 3 AM? Yes. It was the middle of the night, and it was so bright in my room I never turned on a lamp. 


Each morning, I had an opportunity to get up close and personal with the sea ice. First, I put on my bulky red parka, then a pair of thick knee-high rubber boots, and finally, a life preserver. Then I did the “arm hug” to board a zodiac, a 10-person motorized black rubber raft. The driver slowly cruised through slushy ice. It made little popping and fizzing noises, kind of like when milk hits a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal. “Snap. Crackle. Pop.”

The brilliant sunshine vanished behind some clouds, and on one day, a heavy, thick mist rolled in. Everything that wasn’t in a waterproof shell was covered in wetness. The passenger sitting across from me had eyeglasses that kept fogging up. He used his parka sleeve to wipe the lenses off, but it didn’t work so he tried drying them off with his winter hat. Between the mist and the sea spray, nature wasn’t going to let him win. I took a picture of his fogged-up glasses as a reminder that Sydney’s mom might have the same kind of trouble with her camera equipment.

Thud, thud, thud. The bottom of the zodiac started to shake. The driver apologized and said that he had run over some submerged ice. Since most ice is below the water line—remember the Titanic—sometimes a driver can’t see ice and cruises right over it. An idea for the inciting incident began to bloom.


How does global warming affect life under the ice? Lots of ways.

Does any living thing exist under the sea ice? YES!!! What color is under there? GREEN!

Why are there so many different names of ice? Because sea ice is complicated! And its existence is crucial for the survival of our planet. Just to name a few: pack ice, fast ice, new ice, young ice, pancake ice, big floe, and ice cake. I reminded myself that I’m not a scientist, and the target age for this novel is 8–12-years-old.


My inciting incident idea and greatest revelation came on the last day on the zodiacs. A passenger was sitting at the bow, leaning over the front to see if she could spot any submerged ice. Not two minutes later, the zodiac ran aground. The momentum of this abrupt stop lifted the woman out of her seat, pitching her forward. Someone with quick reflexes grabbed the back of her parka and saved her from flipping out of the zodiac and landing on the sea ice…where not too far away, a seal lay there watching us.

This story first and foremost is a work of fiction. Duh, it’s got talking animals! But there are a lot of facts sprinkled in. I went to Svalbard:

  • To get a better grasp of the enormity of global warming and our climate in crisis.
  • To see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the sea ice.
  • To check out some Arctic animals.
  • To experience the sun on my face at 3 AM.
  • And lastly, to give you a setting so rich that it is practically its own character.

AT THE EDGE OF THE ICE is fact-based fiction with a touch of the fantastical.