Franz Josef Land Expediton: Ice and Giant Sea Spiders

The giant sea spider Anomorhynchus smithii, a species described for the first time in Franz Josef Land in 1881. (Photo by Enric Sala)

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala is setting off to explore Franz Josef Land, one of the most remote archipelagos in the world, only 900 km from the North Pole. Home to polar bears, whales, seals and more, the team will investigate how global warming may be affecting this crucial ecosystem in ways we still do not fully comprehend.  Follow his adventures throughout the month.


We woke up to a grey day with more sea ice than yesterday. It did not look appealing, but we were already obsessed by what we’d seen underwater yesterday – therefore we went diving again straight after breakfast.

We jumped in the water underneath the volcanic cliff of Rubini Rock, surrounded by screaming birds. The water was green on the surface, and I dived down hoping to get to the deeper layer of clearer water. I could not see the bottom until I almost touched it. And then, in front of me, on a small rock, was one of the most incredible creatures I have seen underwater: a sea spider – a giant by sea spider standards (six centimeters in diameter).

This species was found for the first time during the Leigh-Smith 1881 expedition to Franz Josef Land. They collected this sea spider with a grab from their ship, but they never saw it underwater. We might be the first to photograph it in its natural environment.

Tikhaya Bay with some icebergs, and the massive Sedov Glacier on the background. Photo by Enric Sala.
Tikhaya Bay with some icebergs, and the massive Sedov Glacier on the background. (Photo by Enric Sala)

NEXT: Read All Franz Josef Land 2013 Blog Posts


The Pristine Seas: Franz Josef Land expedition is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water. 




Meet the Author
Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.