Looking through the big wall-to-wall window, all you can see is the wide horizon over Arctic Ocean. Somewhere out there is the coastline of Greenland. Turn your head a little towards the north, and you could reach the north pole. You can watch fulmars flying around the cliffs, see a bunch of belugas swimming by accompanied by a seal playing around in the water.
It might sound like from another world, but you are in the sauna at Isfjord Radio, the Adventure Hotel at the end of the world. Hours can be spent watching how the birds play in the wind, waves wash to the shore and the sky changes colours as the sun set behind the horizon. It’s an art performance happening just outside your sauna window and it’s the perfect Arctic Spa experience.
The dream of the Arctic Spa was born already when Basecamp Explorer founded Isfjord Radio Adventure Hotel over 10 years ago. What would be better way to warm up after a long day on snowmobiles than a hot sauna? And what would be a better place to observe the arctic scenery and nature, than from a sauna by the shore. Lying on the benches, you are relaxed and isolated from the rest of the world. All you have to do is to let the nature speak to you.
Sauna culture at Isfjord Radio dates back to the 1950’s when the first sauna was built for the staff at the station. Back then the station was a radio link between the mainland Norway and Svalbard, housing permanent staff year around. For the convenience and easiness, the sauna was built indoors to the main building, keeping safe distance from any polar bears visiting. Today the old sauna has been renovated into showers and a new sauna was brought from the mainland Norway. And it was not any kind of sauna.
The nature plays the key part in our Arctic Spa concept. We wanted you to feel at one with the nature while having your warm steam baths. This is why we build the sauna with a big, wall-to-wall window. You can simply lie on the benches and let the nature play it’s theatre for you. This is the best relaxation there is.
To make sure you get the best parts of the nature from the sauna, we wanted to make it mobile; to be able to change locations and get the best out of each season, without compromising on the safety issues with polar bears.
Second part of the Arctic Spa experience is the Ocean. There is no better feeling than first dipping yourself to the icy ocean and then running back to the warm sauna to warm up your toes and fingers again. Is a combination of adrenaline rush and relief that makes you wanting more. Are you ready to try?
To build something unique to the remote location like Isfjord Radio is never easy. Located 90 km from any roads or airports is no easy task, little alone being around the North Pole.
There has been a team of engineers and architects designing and building the best possible sauna for the arctic conditions. It was not easy, but and our visions came true; an architecturally beautiful, moderns and mobile sauna.
The building is made of massive wood. The first material of choice when making an environment friendly construction, and a popular material to use at design-rich buildings and house solutions. At Spitsbergen, it will keep the warm temperature inside and the cold out.
The outerwear is made of treated spruce, to keep the wood maintenance free. The colour is drift grey, and has a good resistance to weather. Inside the sauna, the walls and benches are made of aspen in a modern Scandinavian style. You will not see any lists or nails – even if there is used 200 kg of them. The sauna is true handcraft of the carpenters made in accuracy of the millimetre.
Our sauna offers a spacious room of 17 square meters, with space for 15-20 guests. The nature literally comes in through the heat proof panorama window, stretching from wall-to-wall.
The sauna weights around 5-6 tons. The big questions is how can it be mobile? The architects have drawn the sauna as a wooden jewellery and built it on a steel frame. With the two wheels under, it can be pulled by our tractor from one place to another. It stands today with a delicate design that fits nicely into the surroundings.
The transportation of the sauna was no easy task. First crossing the Arctic Ocean from Tromsø to Svalbard on larger cargo ship. Then traveling on a smaller boat from Longyearbyen to Isfjord Radio. It was some though seas and hard transport, but in the end, the sauna arrived in once piece to Isfjord Radio.
Whaling culture has been living strong on Svalbard from 1600-1750 and is a big part of the islands history. Whales were hunted and dragged to the shore where the blubber was cooked into oil and then shipped to the main land and export for sales. When you look beyond the modern architecture of the sauna you can see some resembling to the old cookeries they used to cook the whale blubber.
Along the coastline from Isfjord Radio, some 15 km towards Barentsburg, is a place called Kokerineset – translated into Cookery Cape in English – a historical place for the whalers back in the days. Basecamp Explorer has a passion to tell stories and especially historical stories. We liked the idea of naming the sauna The Cookery, as the sauna builds its identity on the history rooted at Svalbard.