HDS03-19, trip log, Atlantic Odyssey- Maiden voyage Hondius

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Bitácora

Day 1: Embarkation: Vlissingen

Embarkation: Vlissingen
Fecha: 03.06.2019
Posición: 002°54,9’E/ 52°06,01’N
Viento: W-2
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +21

All of us were excited to finally meet the Hondius. Therefore, it felt more like writing a new chapter in an old book, rather than simply joining a cruise.

We had all undertaken long journeys to join the expedition cruise from Vlissingen, via Aberdeen, Fair Isle, and Jan Mayen to Svalbard. Guests and Staff alike, from different backgrounds and countries including the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Malta, France and Switzerland went on long flights, bus rides and train rides with the same goal, to meet the ship waiting in Vlissingen harbor aiming join an unforgettable cruise of a lifetime. The Hondius and some members of the expedition team and crew came all the way from Croatia to Vlissingen to take us on this special, adventurous voyage.

Our captain, expedition leader, assistant expedition leaders, the expedition team, and the hotel staff were very happy to welcome us onboard this beautiful vessel which captivates with its Croatian charm.

We were given a welcome drink before being introduced to the safety procedures onboard and familiarised with the plans for the upcoming voyage. Jan Belgers, our expedition leader also notified us that we, the guests, were entirely responsible for the weather. After a mandatory safety drill, we enjoyed our first lovely dinner (many more to come) in the restaurant, while getting to know our fellow passengers.

At 6 pm we set sail, bound for the northern archipelago of Svalbard, the realm of the polar bear, the king of the Arctic. We hope to discover different plants and birds together with stunning, pristine landscapes. Our first night at sea was calm and peaceful, and was accompanied by a mesmerising sunset. The gentle movements of the ocean swayed us to sleep.

Many of us dreamed of birds and flowers that night, eagerly awaiting the sights and sounds of our expedition cruise. Some of us slept a little restlessly because we were worried about pur ‘weather fairy skills’. Rose, one of the expedition guides told us that they call the weather presenters on TV a ‘weather fairy’ in Germany and we have to believe what they tell us onboard. What an exciting day!

Day 2: Day at Sea

Day at Sea
Fecha: 04.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 000°53,2’E, 54°27,5’N, at 18:00: 000°43,8’E, 55°27,2’N
Viento: W-2
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +4

We were slightly startled to be roused by a wake-up call. Dreamland was beautiful, awakening was accompanied by a shock of being late for work until we realised that we were on an expedition cruise. Immediately, a smile covered our faces and we couldn’t wait to get out of bed to be out on deck, to discover our new holiday home for the next ten days.

After breakfast, our expedition leader invited us to the lounge for an obligatory AECO and zodiac briefing. We were familiarised with the environmental protocols to follow while visiting the remote archipelago of Svalbard and other sensitive. The presentation was followed by an introduction to the team which was comprised of 14 staff members from different backgrounds with special expertise. We quickly learned that Bill, the Scottish Artist and zodiac master, was even crazier than he looks. He came dressed in a kilt, showing us his bare legs while grinning at us with a big smile. We immediately knew that he was fun and serious business at the same time.

Sara the photographer helped the less photographically-skilled amongst us feel relaxed by ensuring us that she would take care of collecting photographic memories of our voyage. Laurence the glaciologist onboard filled us with excitement for encountering the sea ice. Andreas and Tobias, the Bavarian half German scientists made us look forward to his interesting lectures regarding the changing climate and the geology of the Arctic. We were also introduced to Rosalie the marine scientist, the Dutch naturalists Miriam and Marcel, and the vet and marine mammologist Pierre. Finally we met our assistant expedition leaders Ian and Adam, and our expedition leader Jan. In addition, we also got to know the lovely, Dutch ships doctor Ninette who filled us with confidence to survive this trip in good health. After the briefing, we were given our rubber boots for the upcoming landings during this expedition.

In the afternoon, Bill gave a presentation about Scotland and left us excited to meet his country, the birthplace of ‘the crazy Scotsman’.

Just before dinner we had a Captains welcome cocktail, this was followed by a short recap. Jan introduced us to the fate of the Dogger Bank and its inhabitants in the past. Many of us had never heard of it before, and were surprised to learn about the huge tsunami that drowned it, this was caused by a massive underwater landslide off the coast of Norway; the Storegga Slide. After dinner we watched an interesting documentary about this piece of history before meeting new friends for different types of games in the lounge.

That evening we went to bed with a big smile; Jan gave us one more hour of sleep that night. We were visited by sweet icy dreams in our sleep…

Day 3: Aberdeen

Aberdeen
Fecha: 05.06.2019
Posición: 001°51,6’W, 57°06,9’N
Viento: NNE-1
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +17

The expedition team seem to trust in our weather making skills, perhaps more than ourselves, but their trust was well-founded. We woke up to cloudy skies, calm waters, and some rays of sunshine and found ourselves approaching Aberdeen. Skeins of sea fog cloaked the vessel as it tentatively approached the harbor.

After breakfast, we had to say goodbye to some of our fellow passengers who left us in Aberdeen. We were given three exciting choices as of how to spend our day in Bonnie Scotland. Our decision-making skills were tested to the hardest while choosing between a bus trip to the North or South of grey Aberdeen. For most of us it was easy to neglect the offer of spending a whole day in the city, yet the final decision was hard, but the outcome worthwhile both ways.

Around thirty passengers headed south towards Stonehaven, a delightful little fishing town nestled between two protective slopes. The keen-eyed may have noticed the sign for the heated outdoor swimming pool. Proof indeed that sometimes it gets miserable enough in these parts to have to artificially warm the bathing waters… as if the days weather wasn’t evidence enough. Just beyond and perched precariously on a precipitous plinth lies the spectacular Dunotter Castle. There is evidence of settlements here from the early Middle Ages, but what remains today is from the fifteenth century. This castle, like many, played a key part in the Jacobite uprisings, but it is perhaps best-known for its role in protecting the Scottish crown jewels from the advancing Cromwellian troops in the seventeenth century.

Slightly further south, but no less impressive was the RSPB’s Fowlsheugh nature reserve. Home to the largest seabird colony on the east coast of Scotland. With more than 130,000 breeding pairs of birds, it is a place full of life at this time of the year. Easily visible were kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, and fulmars, as well as the more predatory herring gull. However, the belle of the ball was undoubtedly the puffin. Comical is too easy an adjective to describe these little sea parrots with their colorful bill and cheeky waddle. They stood guarding the entrances to their burrows in easy view for the assorted lenses pointed in their direction. A wonderful experience at a wonderful place.

Meanwhile, to the north, a larger contingent of ships company ventured onto the Sands of Forvie - a pristine dune landscape home to many bird species including eider ducks. Perhaps more excitingly though, on the estuarine stretch of the River Ythan, were grey and common seals in abundance. Estimates vary between 300 and 3000 depending on which guides opinion was canvassed… Regardless, the delight of watching these creatures venture ever closer from the safety of the water was photographic heaven.

After a short lunch break, the party headed towards the cliffs at the Bullers of Buchan - named from old Scots for the rushing of seawater through the arch into the cauldron below. The cliffs here are similar to those at Fowlsheugh with many of the same species of birds on show, but the natural geos and stacks make this a unique, far more dramatic place.

In the late afternoon the two parties were once again reunited at the quaint historic village of Fittie, before heading back into the dock. Here, we welcomed a further twenty passengers onboard to continue with us in our quest ever northwards to the land of ice with dreams of whales and bears. But first we must head to Fair Isle, will the islands name match its weather…?

Day 4: Fair Isle

Fair Isle
Fecha: 06.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 001°35,4’W, 59°21,6’N, at 18:00: 001°52,3’W, 59°51,0’N
Viento: NE-4
Clima: fog, overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +5.6

After a successful day in Aberdeen the ship sailed overnight to Fair Isle. The new passengers who joined in Aberdeen had also received the mandatory safety and zodiac drill the night before so we were all cleared to go ashore. As there was no harbour for the Hondius to use it was the first time we had to use the zodiacs to go ashore and it was a proper wet landing.

Exciting times for all of the passengers and staff. Once everybody was dressed up in their waterproofs, rubber boots and managed to get the lifejackets on correctly, we started to board the zodiacs. There was a nice swell at the sea, but nothing to get worried about, and we all managed to get ashore easily. The steps up to the road were a bit slippery, but with care we navigated our way around the boulders and kelp along the shore.

Fair Isle is Scotland’s most remote inhabited island, home to 53 permanent residents. At arrival, we were met by a welcoming party from the Islanders who described the many points of interest around the island, the walking routes, not the be forgotten; the tea, coffee, and cakes in the village hall.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast this day proved to be correct, and the rain started shortly after everybody had landed. However, it didn’t stop most of us from wandering around by ourselves, or from joining the guided walk that was offered. For those who wanted the people of Fair Isle even provided a taxi service to the city hall and to the other sites around the island. Aside from the refreshments and excellent selection of cakes, there was also the possibility to shop around various stalls with a variety of Fair Isle special knitwear, postcards, paintings, and more, offered by the local families.

It was a very nice opportunity for everybody to enjoy the island at their own pace and to spend as much time as they wanted on the cliffs, the lighthouse, the harbor, or the colony of puffins on the hill just off the landing spot. Shuttles back to the boat started as soon as there were some of us that wanted to go back to the drier surroundings of the ship. Conditions on the way back were a little worse with wind and waves picking up but by 16.00 all passengers and staff were safely back on the ship for our daily re-caps and dinner.

Day 5: Day at Sea, bound for Jan Mayen

Day at Sea, bound for Jan Mayen
Fecha: 07.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 003°46,4’W, 63°13,5’N, at 18:00: 004°24,2’W, 64°16,5’N
Viento: SSW-7/8
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +5

Some of us were woken up by the gentle rocking movements of the sea, while others found it challenging to wake to Jan’s soft voice in the early hours. Many of us made it to breakfast but a few of us had smaller appetites due to the slightly rougher seas. The beautiful waves of the open ocean were not liked by everyone on board.

Our lovely Sara gave a lecture on photography, entitled ‘how to take pictures you are happy with’. She commenced the lecture by stating ‘Wildlife is my passion & photography my frustration’ which referred to the fact that it is more important to observe wildlife, rather than capturing its fancy movements on camera and being sad when the animal of desire plays ‘catch me if you can’ with you. She also suggested to study the object of interest before taking a picture in order to allow for higher success rates. Always think one step ahead, if the birds will start flying they will most likely take off in the same direction as the wind. If a bear is swimming, he will most likely aim to jump on an ice floe, and so on.

Later on, there was another lecture presented by Andy Gilbert from Orca on whales and dolphins in the Arctic. During this lecture, we learned how to comfortably identify marine mammals and seabirds in the Arctic.

In the afternoon Laurence gave a presentation on the bathymetry of the high latitudes. During his talk, he described the world beneath the waves and opened a whole new door for some of us. We learned about iceberg scour marks along with natural underwater explosions, underwater volcanoes, huge geologic fault systems, and landslides; all of which have left their marks on the ocean floor.

After dinner, some of us spent the evening watching a natural history documentary on Arctic exploration. For others, the evening meant another social gathering in the bar with fellow passengers and new friends. We had lots of fun and were almost too bubbly to go to sleep tonight with Jan Mayen looming in the future.

Day 6: Day at Sea, bound for Jan Mayen

Day at Sea, bound for Jan Mayen
Fecha: 08.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 006°16,7’W/ 67°13,3’N, at 18:00: 007°01,2’E/ 68°20,5’N
Viento: SSW-7/8
Clima: good visibility
Temperatura del Aire: +5

When we woke up, we found ourselves officially in Arctic waters as we crossed the Arctic Circle in the early morning hours. We were welcomed by another fog kissed day. However, by now, after leaving Scotland behind we had learned to embrace all types of weather. Some of us even started to enjoy the eerie atmosphere created by those misty horizons. After breakfast, we retired to the lounge, to the outer decks, or even back to bed! Some of us even chose a lie in instead of breakfast.

Before long the sky lightened we were accompanied by the sun. We enjoyed lots of time on the outside decks in search of wildlife. We saw several different bird species as well as a pod of pilot wales very close to the ship.

Andreas, the funny German, gave an interesting talk about climate change in the Arctic during which we learned that we are responsible and can have an impact on Earth’s environmental conditions. Andreas explained the different scientific aspects very clearly and took us by surprise when he told us that we melt one coin of sea ice with every coffee we drink. We laughed a lot but we also became slightly thoughtful in hindsight. During the afternoon, there was another presentation given by Tobias, the German geologist onboard, who lectured on the Geology and thereby on the volcanic history of the beautiful island of Jan Mayen, which we were aiming to reach within the next day.

While enjoying some afternoon tea with cake we were given an introduction to Jan Mayen by Jan. In addition, some of us watched a documentary about hunting in the Arctic.

All in all another lovely day at sea!

Day 7: Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen
Fecha: 09.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 008°42,1’W, 70°58,0’N, at 18:00: 008°07,9’E, 71°22,6’N
Viento: E-2
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: -1

The day began very early for an intrepid few; braving the chill Arctic breeze of the small hours for a glorious view of the approach to Jan Mayen. The morning sun backlit skeins of low sea fog and the view to the north was utterly dominated by the monolithic presence of Beerenburg, the volcanic sentinel guarding over the Norwegian-Greenland Sea.

First, an energetic humpback made several appearances relatively close to Hondius. This was followed after breakfast by a large spout seen repeatedly out at sea, off the port deck. This whale was far enough away to be challenging to identify, but later close examination of photos showed that it was a blue whale; the largest animal on the planet!

Well-rested from our beds, and well-fed from another sumptuous breakfast we were ready to embrace the vigour of an attempted landing on Jan Mayen. Jan called a briefing to announce the final plans, the station chief on the island had been in touch – our planned landing site at Båtvika, on the southern side, was awash with a large swell and there was no way to land safely there. Instead we would have a scenic cruise around the southern cape of Jan Mayen, and a little way up the west coast, to a sheltered bay named Hvallrossbukta. As Hondius anchored there was a thick pall of fog lying heavily over everything and not even a glimpse of the shoreline. Two zodiacs were swiftly lowered to scout the bay, and after a cautious recce, they returned with good news; conditions were excellent and the fog was starting to thin and lift.

The group of hikers set off first, landing on the steep shingle beach and setting off into the mists up the hill above the bay. The landing beach had an ethereal feel, the spectre of the Hondius appeared sporadically in the swirling mists and the imposing volcanic cliffs occasionally revealed themselves – although never in full.

Once the hikers were underway the beach party landed, with a relaxed timetable there was plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of Hvallrossbukta. The black basalt beach was utterly devoid of footprints and as we explored the area a chorus of little auks called out cheerfully from the amphitheatre of cliffs around us. The back of the beach was littered with huge logs. These had arrived on Jan Mayen after a tortuous journey from Siberia, through the Arctic Ocean; enduring the crushing maze of ice floes before being released from their cold grip in the Fram Strait and drifting south in the East Greenland Current to the shores of Jan Mayen. Some of the logs were full-size trees and their position, far from the lapping water’s edge, is testament to the ferocity of the storms that ravage this little outcrop of rock in the middle of the ocean. The northern end of the beach is dominated by a rescue shelter, a storage depot, and some heavy equipment used for maintaining the gravel road and landing supplies for the station.

Whilst the beachgoers were exploring the hikers had made good progress; climbing the gravel track above the beach, dropping over the far col, and climbing once more towards the saddle in the centre of the island. The mid-point of the hike was a little over 4 kilometres from the beach, the mist had cleared substantially and it was possible to see across the rugged landscape towards the far coast of the island and a vast expanse of driftwood along the shoreline. The two hiking groups took turns to walk across the dusty bowl over the ridge from Hvallrossbukta to approach the little auk colony among the rocks. Little auks are very charismatic birds; they took off in chattering flocks and we could hear their calls singing out from the burrows in the hillside. Jan Mayen is home to tens of thousands of little auks and they are thought to be the most numerous seabird on earth.

The beachgoers made it back to Hondius just in time for lunch, while the hikers ate sandwiches that they had prepared earlier in the morning. By 3 pm all were back aboard and Hondius hauled up the anchor and set off for a ships cruise along the northern coast of the island.

A layer of thick, low cloud limited our views but we could see the shoreline of the island to the very northern tip. This included the area of new land formed by lava flows during the 1970 eruption, and several large glaciers which cascade from the summit crater of Beerenburg all the way to sea level. These white walls streaked with black volcanic sediments were our first glaciers of the trip, and a brief appetizer for the wild icescapes of Svalbard. As we rounded the northern tip of Jan Mayen we turned, heading due north, bound for the Arctic pack ice.

At the evening recap Jan announced the plans for the coming day. Andreas then explained the glaciology of Jan Mayen, including the glaciers that we had seen earlier. Sara followed with an introduction to the different pinnipeds we have, and may still encounter; this included some handy tips on how to identify them. Finally, Bill talked introduced us to a paining; Breugels ‘The Fall of Icarus’. He took us on a journey through the subtle themes hidden within the painting with an engaging commentary.

Dinner followed shortly after, and soon it was time to retire, the gentle motion of the ocean rocking us to sleep once more.

Day 8: Sea & first ice

Sea & first ice
Fecha: 10.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 75°05’095 N/ 010°11’979E, at 18:00: 75°47’679 N/ 007°54’821E
Viento: E-2
Clima: overcast, sea ice
Temperatura del Aire: 0

Today, we woke to sunny skies, patchy fog, and calm waters. After another delicious breakfast, onboard we joined Sara in the lounge for her presentation about the king of the Arctic, the polar bear. Half way through her talk we reached the pack ice and were amazed by the icy waters surrounding us.

The high latitudes welcomed us with a belt of pack ice up to 2 m thick, for some, including Hondius, this was our first taste of Arctic sea ice. Our ship measured up to its high latitude reputation.
The maximum ice thickness of the surrounding pack ice belt reached 2.5 m.

We were mesmerised by the ice blink in the distance and observed the Hondius in admiration as she broke through ice floe after ice floe and enjoyed a captain who certainly loved ramming the bow of the boat into the next ice flow ahead. We had lots of fun!

Even during our lunch, we couldn’t take our eyes off the magical oceanic wonderland and were looking forward to going back out on deck. The expedition team and some enthusiastic passengers spent their time on the outside decks as well as on the bridge, aiming to spot wildlife, BEARing the polar bear and marine mammals in mind.

In the afternoon, Tobias, the ROCKstar gave an interesting lecture about optical phenomena in the polar regions, followed by Iain who gave a short lecture on sea ice formation.
We spent some quality time in the lounge and on the outside decks with our new friends. Some of us also decided to puzzle, play games, or read in the library instead.

The recap prior to dinner was dominated by Bill’s brilliant artistic performance.
It was an incredible experience to sail through different latitudes up to the pack ice. We felt a bit like we have had achieved the aim of this expedition. However, we did not go to sleep tonight without a bear in mind.

The expedition team and a few enthusiastic birders spend all night on the bridge in search of wildlife. Our lovely captain wanted us to have an enjoyable night and decided to sail out of the pack ice, in the open ocean during the night, aiming to prevent us from waking up due to constant movement and noise from travelling through the ice.

This meant, that the everyone out and about at night, was predominantly in search of marine mammals. Several whales and seals were spotted in the distance, but these fleeting glimpses did not justify a wakeup call for the whole ship in the middle of the night. These seals and whales took a look at Hondius, while swimming past, in silence, in order to follow the AECO rules, leaving all wild humans in peace, without disturbing their sleep patterns. The bowhead whale stayed away entirely, probably worried that our disrupted sleep pattern could have caused a collision with the Hondius and ice of greater thickness than its ability to break through, caused by tired, half shut eyes.

If they would have only known us better...

They should have attended Bill’s lecture to learn to listen, think and understand to see themselves as we would have looked at them. Therefore, we dreamed on and on, until Jan’s soft voice came on, calling us for breakfast.

Day 9: In the pack ice in search of the polar bear

In the pack ice in search of the polar bear
Fecha: 11.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 76°56’532 N/ 003°22’570E, at 18:00: 77°02’887 N/ 002°43’970E
Viento: E-2
Clima: overcast, sea ice
Temperatura del Aire: 0

We were in search of the desired king of the Arctic all night in dreamland and continued the search in the morning with half shut, but eager eyes. Most of us gathered in the lounge right after breakfast to both socialise and spot wildlife.

We knew that we were close to the white, fluffy thing because more and more footprints kept appearing in the ice.

Once again, Sara held an excellent talk about polar bears and our lovely assistant expedition leader Iain gave a brilliant lecture about polar history and thereby lead us into a new world of ice and snow.

Pierre, the vet and marine mammal specialist among the team gave a lecture on marine mammal conservation which was highly interesting. And finally, Bill gave a long recap before dinner about art in conjunction with the ocean.

In the evening, we were given the opportunity to watch an interesting documentary on the different hunting techniques developed by various predatory animals living in the high latitudes. This was simply titled ‘The Hunt’.

Today, our motto was: sleep, dream, wake up, eat, and repeat. The icy summer wonderland captured our attention minute after minute, leaving us mesmerised and humble.

We spotted several different types of seals on the surrounding ice flows and watched large flocks of little auks and ivory gulls flattering alongside our ship.

The bar was busier that night, showing that many of us have found new friends with whom to share stories and laughs. Several of us were playing card games and read some interesting books out of our extraordinary diverse library on board.

However, even though the food in the restaurant was outstanding, we finally felt like grumbling. We loved what the kitchen team put on our plates, but we had to worry about what put on our waists, and on day 9 many of us starting to feel the effects of this excellent food. But we also learned that in the Arctic it is good to be fat, ‘the fatter, the better’. Besides, on a good expedition cruise ship you fly in and roll out and its pointless to get upset about it but it’s better to accept the fact and enjoy.

Day 10: Day in the pack ice & polar bear search

Day in the pack ice & polar bear search
Fecha: 12.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 77°57,3’ N/ 001°43’2W, at 18:00: 78°00’538 N/ 000°33’520E
Viento: SSE-3
Clima: good vis., sunshine
Temperatura del Aire: +1

For most of us, today was the highlight of the voyage. Our wildest dreams came true and we finally met the king of the Arctic on ice.

Today we felt like being on a real expedition. The day started with our schedule for the day being cleared due to the incredibly good ice conditions surrounding the ship, perfect for seeing polar bears. The expedition team and several passengers spent the morning trying to spot the king of the Arctic. We were all very excited and it felt a little bit like being on a secret mission with a touch of hide and seek. We only had about 3

hours remaining in the pack ice before reaching the open sea, when Mike, one the birders among us spotted a bear on ice. Even though directions on where to find the bear were given immediately, it took most of us several minutes to find the bear ourselves. This demonstrated again how well-camouflaged these animals are with regards to their surrounding environment. The icy wonderland was breathtaking, but the sighting of a polar bear was undoubtedly the highlight of the day for every single one of us onboard. The ‘Herzige Isbaerlie’ as our Swiss friends onboard refer to it, was really a bear playing on ice and showing off. It jumped and swam between the ice floes, rolled around in the ice and looked at us with big, charming, wise, and slightly hungry eyes. The main question, crossing our minds was: ‘who is watching who’?

After it spotted us, a longer episode of ‘hide and seek’ begun. From time to time the white beauty kept appearing. However, despite its large size and great body weight, it seemed almost tiny and insignificant with relation to the surrounding vast wilderness of the Arctic Ocean. What a solitary yet majestic existence. Again, whoever joined Bills art presentation the previous night, certainly thought about it.

Being exposed to the vast expanses of harsh wilderness inevitably led to thoughts about our place in the world and the fragility of life. For other we were simply blown away by ice and its inhabitants. We could see the high diversity within the ice, and had come to appreciate that it is a world of constant change, reflecting the endless movements of the sea and wind.

As Bill said, ‘this morning will never come again’, but at the same time we can say that ‘this morning, will never be forgotten’.

After our polar bear encounter we lifted our expectations and nature did not let us down. Soon after lunch our lovely Hondius was visited by different species of whales. Among these was a rare bowhead whale (Greenland whale), the newborn ship also attracted an even more rare Narwhale of which a few of us were able to catch a glimpse.

We also saw many birds (ivory gulls, kittiwakes etc.), large groups of harp and ringed seals, and there was a single hooded seal sat far out on the ice. The silence and peacefulness of the sea ice was only interrupted only by the chattering kittiwakes and the sound of crunching ice, caused as we navigated through the pack ice.

Our allocated ‘weather fairy’ onboard worked very hard during the night to create beautiful sunshine for today and it worked, the sun was shining on us, the ice and the bear all day. There was neither fog, nor swell, which made the wildlife encounters spectacular. Besides, we could enjoy almost the whole day out and about on deck due to fairly good weather and comfortable temperatures.

We learned in the beginning of our voyage that we, the guests are responsible for the weather, while the expedition leader with his team will try everything in his power to create many, unforgettable memories. In the evening, our fellow guests and new-found friends gathered again in the lounge for a recap and polar bear safety briefing in the lounge. Andreas gave an introduction to Svalbard and Jan an introduction to the safety during landings in terms of potential polar bear sightings.

During the recap of the day we were celebrating the polar bear sighting of the day. Mick was given a bottle of Port wine, for being the first to spot the bear.

After another tasty, 4 course meal we were given the opportunity to attend another lecture by Andy and Andrew from the Orca project concerning mitigation measures allowing for conservation of local cetacean populations. Some enjoyed a quiet evening in their cabins, while others had a rather lively evening in the bar. What a ‘baerenstarker Tag’ (powerful beard day).

Different people, different activities, different sights, different stories, but the same aim to sail the last 250 nautical miles to Poolepynten on Svalbard. What a beautiful day! What an exciting time ahead of us! What a past, what a present, what a future!
Icy dreams during day & night…in what a wonderful world we live in!

Comments from guests (confidential identities):

1. Food, food, food ‘you fly in and roll out, the destiny of being on a voyage with Oceanwide Expeditions. However, we were told that the Arctic has its own rules: the fatter, the better. Our big, fat, happy polar bear of the day underlined this theory, as well as the ‘ faule Robbe auf der Scholle’. It was good that we had marine scientists onboard who helped us to see the seal on ice in a different light. Apparently, they are not fat and lazy, but champions of energy efficiency.

2. My blubber is becoming ocean wide.

Day 11: First glimpse of Svalbard & first landing on polar bear terrain

First glimpse of Svalbard & first landing on polar bear terrain
Fecha: 13.06.2019
Posición: at 12:00: 78°25’779 N/ 011°56’492E, at 18:00: 78°16’355 N/ 013°59’011E
Viento: NE-4
Clima: overcast, foggy
Temperatura del Aire: +1

A new day dawned, overcast sky, dull, after yesterday but a promise of excitement lay ahead as Hondius slid gently through calm seas to the island of Prins Karls Forland and our landing site at Poolepynten.

First thing after breakfast we were divided into groups and, once ashore, were led along the debris strewn beach towards the end of the sand bar. Huge baulks of timber, some of which were natural tree trunks, others discarded worked beams, all originating from the Russian coast, were strewn across the flat landscape and mingled with assorted ancient whale bones, seaweed and shingle. Enormous lagoons dotted the vast expanse of sandy plain behind the beach and stretched out to the base of snow-covered mountains rising dramatically in the distance.

Jan briefed each group as they approached as to ‘Walrus viewing protocol ‘and explained that guides carrying rifles for protection would be in the front and rear of each group. Passengers walked forward slowly in an extended line. Everyone understood and obeyed the instructions….no flashes on cameras, no sudden movements, and most importantly no noise apart from the constant clicking of shutters and whir of film cameras as eager passengers fired off thousands of shots to capture every movement of the animals.

An efficient shuttle of boats transferred everyone back to Hondius.

After the usually excellent lunch Hondius anchored for the final adventure of the cruise… everyone participated in two activities, an extensive Zodiac cruise in the fjord of Ymerbukta and then a landing and walk near the shattered front of the glacier. For many this was a trip highlight, sightings of whales and seals in the water, a fox and reindeer on land, and an informative description of the geology of the stunning landscape.

Passengers returned to Hondius where the Expedition Leader Jan and Alexy the outstanding Captain gave thanks to the entire crew and the highly professional guide team and toasted the success of this very special Oceanwide Expedition…the first voyage of the Polar expedition vessel Hondius.
A brilliant ending to a totally memorable experience for all passengers…once again smiles on every face. Looking, seeing, thinking and doing. Listening, hearing, understanding and doing…and most importantly having FUN!

Day 12: Disembarkation: Longyearbyen

Disembarkation: Longyearbyen
Fecha: 14.06.2019
Posición: 78°14’0 N/ 015°36’1E
Viento: WSW-5
Clima: sunshine
Temperatura del Aire: +3

This was a journey of a lifetime and we saw some of the most beautiful parts which the Arctic has to offer. The great weather, lovely guests, the captain, Jan our expedition leader, as well as our two assistant expedition leaders Iain and Adam in conjunction with the knowledgeable expedition team as well as the competent, hard working crew made this voyage possible. Have a safe journey home and we hope to welcome you onboard of one of our beautiful vessels again in the near future. It was a pleasure meeting every single one of you.

It was finally time to say goodbye. On Hawaii they say ‘never say goodbye, but always hello’. On Svalbard they say nothing. Norwegians are not particularly talkative... Regardless, we hope to see you again, in the North or the South, or somewhere in between.

On behalf of everyone on board we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home!

Total distance sailed: 2231 Nautical Miles

‘The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed’ (Jacques Yves Cousteau)

‘Temporis filia veritas’= ‘Truth is the daughter of time’ (Johannes Kepler)

‘The ocean is free within the bounds of the bay, high waves rolling in…’ (Rose)

Detalles

Código del viaje: HDS03a-19
Fechas: 3 Jun – 14 Jun, 2019
Duración: 11 noches
Barco: El Hondius
Embarque: Vlissingen
Desembarque: Longyearbyen

Aboard El Hondius

Hondius es el primer buque polar Clase 6 que haya sido registrado en el mundo, cumpliendo con los últimos y más altos requisitos de la Lloyd’s Register para cruceros de casco reforzado para el hielo.

More about the El Hondius >>