OTL13-17, trip log, Around Spitsbergen and Kvitøya

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Longyearbyen

Embarkation, Longyearbyen
Datum: 12.08.2017
Positie: 78°14.1‘ N, 015°36.6‘ E
Wind: NNW 3/4
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +14

Since Longyearbyen’s foundation as a coal-mining settlement in 1906 by John Munro Longyear, it has been the starting point for many historic and pioneering expeditions. The town has a permanent population of around 3,000 residents but this number increases significantly during the summer with the arrival of thou-sands a cruise ship tourists ready to explore the archipelago of Svalbard. Our adventure began with boarding our comfortable floating home for the next ten days – the M/V Ortelius at the pier in Longyearbyen. At 16:00 we were met at the gangway by members of the Expe-dition team who directed us to the ship’s reception where we were checked in and shown to our comforta-ble cabins. As soon as we had settled into our comfortable home most of us found themselves either on the outside decks to enjoy the views or in the bar for a coffee or tea. Soon it was time to gather in the lecture room for several welcome briefings. One was by our Expedition Leader Michael, another by our Hotel Manager Zsuzannah. We were then briefed by Second Officer Louis on ship safety and how to prepare for abandon ship procedures, should the worst incident happen on board. A drill of the general alarm, which was seven short blasts followed by one long blast was made and we all donned the SOLAS orange life jackets and mustered in the bar guided by crew and staff. After a roll call to assure everyone was present we went out to the lifeboats and some of us actually went inside to explore the cosy surroundings! We returned to our cabins briefly before regrouping with Captain Ernesto Barria in the lounge for a wel-coming toast of champagne or juice. This was also a chance to meet members of the Expedition team who will be guiding us on shore and keeping us safe during our time around Svalbard. It was then time to head to the dining room for the first of many delicious meals to be prepared by Heinz and his galley team. Meanwhile, Ortelius made her way through Isfjorden towards the open sea. After dinner, there was one final task to complete and that was the collection of rubber boots and life jackets from the lecture room. Staff were on hand to ensure we got the correct size and fit and were ready to go ashore on Svalbard in the morning.

Day 2: 14th Julybukta and Ny Ålesund

14th Julybukta and Ny Ålesund
Datum: 13.08.2017
Positie: 79°07.4‘ N, 011°48.4‘ E
Wind: SE 3
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +11

Overnight we had sailed north past Prins Karls Forland and up into Kongsfjorden. As breakfast was being served we anchored facing the 14th Julibukta glacier which was to be the location of our morning excursion, a truly magnificent Arctic landscape surrounded us. Before going a shore, we had to attend a further two briefings; zodiac safety and polar bear safety but it was no time at all till the zodiacs were lowered into the water to take us ashore. We split into four groups and set off in different directions in search of wildlife and wild flowers. We were not disappointed! Whilst on land we saw several reindeer feeding on the rich tundra vegetation below the seabird cliffs, flocks of barnacle geese, some nesting Arctic skuas and even got lucky seeing an Arctic fox. Foxes are very often found near seabird cliffs and time the arrival of their pups to coincide with ample feeding on eggs and chicks from the birds. This individual was unusually pale in colour so stood out well against the green tundra allowing people to view it with ease. We also walked to ‘hanging gardens’ to observe the pretty summer flowers which were now in full bloom. This little cliff face is sheltered from the wind and south facing so the plants here grow taller than any-where else on Svalbard. As we made our way to the other end of the beach, towards the glacier, the stony moraine reminds us of the position of this glacier less than 50 years ago. For such a small location, it offers such contrast! Following lunch, we set out for our afternoon landing at Ny Ålesund. This former coal mining village is now a scientific community operating under the Norwegian Polar Institute research governance and is consid-ered to be the most northern settlement in the world. We were given time to wander around the museum, visit the small souvenir shop, send post cards home to loved ones and of course sample the local delicacy, freshly cooked waffles with jam and cream. We then followed Arjen out to the mast used to anchor a Zeppelin airship in 1926 and where he spoke of the history of Arctic exploration and the attempts to reach the North Pole from Spitsbergen. Back on-board Michael led a short recap where he also explained what the plan was for tomorrow and then it was time for dinner which concluded our first full day in the high Arctic.

Day 3: Chermsideøya, Phippsøya, & Vesle Tavleøya

Chermsideøya, Phippsøya, & Vesle Tavleøya
Datum: 14.08.2017
Positie: 79°43.6‘ N, 011°04.2‘ E
Wind: W 2
Weer: Overcast/fog
Luchttemperatuur: +6

We woke to a soft blanket of clouds over the northern islands of Nordkappt. We had travelled many kilo-meters overnight, and had made good time arriving at Chermsideøya. Calm conditions were found as the ship settled into anchorage in Beverlysundet. After a leisurely breakfast Michael called us into the lounge for a short pre-landing briefing. We would be exploring a small section of the polar desert and its rich his-tory at “graffiti beach”. Due to the size of the location we split into two different groups, one to cruise, one to slowly wander and photograph the rock displays, after one hour or so the groups switched. The morning felt quite cold compared to days prior. We were now at 80˙28’38 N and would only be going farther into the wild northern arctic as the day progressed. After we had all had a chance to soak in the stunning and stark polar desert we headed back to the ship to enjoy the warm delights the galley provided for lunch. We continued sailing north towards the afternoon’s planned activity of landing in the Seven Islands, particularly at Phippsøya, a wild island in the north renowned for walrus as well as a high proportion of bear sightings. In route, we were interrupted by a privileged sighting of Blue whales from the bridge. The expedition team were out on deck helping us find these giants of the sea. The Captain slowed the ship and diverted course slightly so we all had the chance to see Balaenoptera musculus. After nearly 45 minutes of viewing we re-newed course to Phippsøya. The weather had turned a bit wet and rainy, but conditions were good to land. The guides set out to scout the landing and shortly we disembarked Ortelius for the second event of the day. We divided into three different groups, long hikers, medium walkers and photography/beach combers. Dressed fully in our wet weather gear we set out to discover this magnificent island. The expedition team were quite pleased, as the last two attempts to land in the previous weeks had been thwarted due to ice. The long hikers headed off with Ali and Sara, a nice group of 18, their plan was to cover some ground and stretch the legs, as well fitting in a visit to the walrus. The medium group also departed around the pond to explore the terrain before a planned social call to the Tooth walkers. Just as the last zodiac was about to touch the beach, a call came over the radio that a polar bear had been spotted by the longer hikers. An immediate evacuation plan was set into place. The hikers retreated under direction of Ali and Sara, all the other hiking parties also quickly and calmly returned to the landing site. With co-operation between the expedition guides, bridge team, and crew drivers all passengers were quickly loaded back into the zodiacs and transported to the ship. Once back on board the ship was alive with chatter of the afternoon’s events. We were all excited to have been around the presence of the bear, even though many of us had not seen it. Once everyone was back on board we headed to the lounge for a re-cap of the day’s events and situations avoided. Also, the plan for the coming days in the ice was discussed. Michael explained to all of us the need to follow safety proce-dures and regulations in regards to polar bear encounters on land, and re-iterated our protocols and desire to keep everyone safe. Afterwards Shelli spoke to the biology of Blue whales and Ali lent some tips for spot-ting polar bears on the ice. We then headed to dinner, shortly after dessert we were notified of something else very sweet. A polar bear and her cub had been spotted on Vesle Tavleøya the small island just north of Phippsøya. We bundled back up and headed outside with cameras and binoculars to view these two ani-mals perched 40 meters up on a rocky ledge. The bears had likely come over on the sea ice that had been around these islands in the weeks prior and subsequently got stuck. Now they would have to wait for the ice to come back or take a daring swim to another island in search of food. Huddled together out of the weather conditions they looked quite content. It was decided that we would stay here for the night in hopes that in the early morning the bears might be up and active. The Captain gave the order to set the anchor, Ortelius’s powerful engines were shut down for the night and we enjoyed a quiet evening in the mist and fog. A wonderful day.

Day 4: Expedition Day in the Ice

Expedition Day in the Ice
Datum: 15.08.2017
Positie: 80°40.4‘ N, 019°39.7‘ E
Wind: Calm
Weer: Overcast/fog
Luchttemperatuur: +4

Today we were woken by Michael an hour before schedule. The Polar bears were still sleeping on the cliff and we were offered a zodiac cruise to have a closer look. Only few of us decided to turn around again and stay in bed, so soon the Zodiacs were filled and headed towards Rossøya, one of the northernmost islands of the archipelago. The bears were still quite high up on the island and were partially hidden behind a small ridge. But sometimes they were kind enough to lift their heads and have a look at those strange black things that were below them in the water, allowing us to have a decent look at them. Apart from the bears there were some Kittiwakes and Brünnich’s Guillemots breeding on the island and several Puffins were seen as well. One unfortunate Brünnich’s Guillemot chick ended up as quite a large breakfast for a Glaucous Gull, who clearly had difficulties swallowing this bird at once. Back on the ship we had breakfast and we set sail towards the pack ice! How exciting, when would we see the first ice floes on the horizon? Before we saw any ice, several Fin Whales were seen. After the largest whale, yesterday’s Blue Whales, we now have also seen the second largest whale. When the whales were gone, we were called to the bar to attend a lecture by Arjen about Polar bears. Interesting to know a little bit more about these charismatic animals that we hoped to see even better later on in the trip… Shortly before lunch the first ice floes were seen and so after lunch we all dressed up warmly and headed outside to enjoy this fantastic icescape around us. The Captain brought the ship deeper and deeper into the ice. We headed north east most of the time, bringing us closer and closer to the pole. We were now well over 81ºN, our northernmost point, 81º22’N was ‘only’ 518 nautical miles (=959km) from the geographical North Pole. Meanwhile the members of the expedition team had positioned themselves on the bridge, scanning the ice for ‘mayonnaise-coloured objects’ on the ice. Just after 15:00 they hit the jackpot: a Polar bear was found!! In the beginning, it didn’t seem too interested in the ship, but when Captain Ernesto Bar-ria positioned the ship on the way of the bear we could have really good looks on the bear when he passed the ship. Many pictures were taken, especially when he jumped from one floe to another. After a while the bear decided it was enough and he continued his search for seals. For us this was the sign to continue as well, a bit more east now, towards our next destination: Kvitøya. But this still meant there was a lot of ice to cross, so the search continued. Several seals were seen swimming in the water, mostly Harp seals. Most of the time the ship was followed by a group of Kittiwakes, who took advantage of the Ortelius pushing away ice floes and thereby exposing the small Polar Cod that is hiding underneath these floes. Pomarine and Arctic Skuas in turn were following these Kittiwakes to steal their prey. At recap Michael explained our plans for the next day: we hoped to reach Kvitøya! And Ali and Arjen explained about some of the birds and bears that we had seen and about the movement and disappear-ance of the ice. After another fabulous dinner prepared by our chef Heinz it was time to relax. We more in open water (and the visibility had reduced a lot due to sea fog), so it was time to look at our pictures or for a drink in the bar. Excited about the things we had seen today and about what was to come the next day.

Day 5: Kvitøya

Datum: 16.08.2017
Positie: 79°07.5‘ N, 011°49.5‘ E
Wind: SE 2
Weer: Fair
Luchttemperatuur: +14

Most of us had been woken by the sound of ice along the side of the ship long before the wake-up call at 7.30 but there was time for a bit of a lie in as we made our way towards Kvitøya. As we made our way out on deck before breakfast we could see that there was ice all around and that our speed had slowed signifi-cantly during the night and early part of the morning. Michael announced over the PA system that we would continue on our planned route towards Kvitøya and see what the day brought. One of the first features of interest in the area were two boats that were mak-ing their way through the pack ice even more slowly than we were. It turned out that one of them was a luxury super yacht with a tender tied to the stern and one was an ice breaking support boat to enable a yacht of this kind to make it up into the ice. The Bridge team spoke to them both and it was reported that they had been trying to get through the ice to Kvitøya for a day or so with no luck. They planned to follow our route but in the meantime, they reported that they had seen a polar bear nearby to their location and invited us to take a closer look. We sailed in their direction and it wasn’t long before the eagle eyes of members of the Expedition Team and Captain saw a female bear and her cub making their way across the ice floes. The Captain very slowly and carefully navigated Ortelius through the ice towards where the bears were. They suddenly disap-peared and were then seen swimming in open water. The cub did a great job of keeping up with its mother and before long they climbed out onto the ice. Female bears with their cubs are generally quite shy, the female naturally wants to protect her cub so we made sure not to get too close and allowed them to con-tinue on their way over the ice. What a wonder encounter! During the morning, there was a number of short presentations given by the guides in the lounge. Ali talked about some of the women that have made their mark on Svalbard, including Leonie d’ Aunet who was the first woman to visit the archipelago in 1839. Shelli explained about the different seals found in the region and Sara talked about Arctic foxes. Back out on deck the visibility was improving all the time and although we were still making slow progress through the ice it was an incredible experience to be travelling through the pack ice in such lovely condi-tions. Kittiwakes were seen catching small polar cod as we broke through the ice and slowly the ice edge of Kvitøya came into view. After lunch, we found ourselves in open water once again and were able to increase speed and before too long we were dropping the anchor off Andreneset on Kvitøya. All we could see was ice, from the high ice cliffs to the huge ice cap covering the island. There was a line of rock visible along the shore but even this was blocked by ice that had washed in from sea. The guides were up on deck scouting the coastline as this is a notoriously ‘beary’ place and sure enough Ali spotted a bear on the ice along the shore which then went into the water and began to make is way along the coast. It seemed a landing would not be possible today. Instead 10 zodiacs were launched for a cruise and just as the guides were waiting on the water by the ship the swimming bear appeared on ice near to the ship, got into the water again and began making her way back towards Ortelius. She swam in front of the bow and then disappeared into the ice and mist once more. Once the zodiacs were loaded we made our way along the shore where we saw a number of walrus both on ice and in the water. It was an eerie afternoon with mist coming and going allowing us glimpses of the island and at one point the whole of the ice cap could be seen. We made our way through the ice until we reached the location where Andre set up camp after crashing his airship on the sea ice whilst attempting to fly over the north pole. The 3 members of the expedition perished here and looking at the island in the middle of summer it wasn’t hard to understand why…. After nearly 2 hours on the water we were all suitable chilled so the guides set their GPS on ‘Go To’ mode and headed back along the coast. With the ice lights shining Ortelius finally came into view and we were all very happy to get back on board and warmed up. What a memorable day it had been here at Kvitøya.

Day 6: Bråsvellbreen and Kapp Waldburg

Bråsvellbreen and Kapp Waldburg
Datum: 17.08.2017
Positie: 79°14.8‘ N, 025°37.8‘ E
Wind: WNW 7
Weer: Fair
Luchttemperatuur: +4

Overnight we had sailed south, passing the east coast of Nordaustland which is the second largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Nordaustland contrasts dramatically with landscapes elsewhere in Spitsbergen as around 80% of it is comprised of icecaps and glaciers, with the Vestfonna and Austfonna ice caps totalling 8,450sq km. This morning the plan was to cruise the ice cliffs of Bråsvellbreen, which along with the adja-cent Austfonna makes up the largest ice cap and glacial system outside of Antarctica and Greenland. The ice cliff is 170km in length making it the longest in the Northern Hemisphere and we could not have wished for more glorious weather in which to enjoy it. Blue skies and sunshine awaited us as we finished breakfast, so we wrapped up warmly and headed out on deck to marvel at this natural spectacle. We spent the morn-ing slowing making our way along the ice cliff, giving us time to appreciate its sheer size and splendour. The plan was then to continue along the coast to Vibebukta where we hoped to spend the afternoon in or-der to have a bit of a leg stretch and visit a walrus haul out- assuming that they were at home of course! However, we were met by a thick belt of glacial ice which significantly slowed our progress and delayed our proposed arrival time. To add to this, the bridge then received a message from another expedition vessel that there was bad swell at our proposed landing site, preventing them from landing there earlier in the day. Therefore, there was no option but to look towards a possible Plan B or even a Plan C for this af-ternoon activities! While the Captain tried to negotiate these unforeseen ice and weather conditions the expedition staff entertained us with various lectures and we were encouraged to get out on to deck and enjoy the evocative seascape which indeed proved to be a satisfying distraction from the disappointment of not getting ashore. On days where no real activity takes place, it can be easy to become frustrated at the weather conditions or the wildlife but a true Arctic experience can offer so much more if you allow it to. Whether it be a recognition of those who travelled here before and the various hardships they faced, an appreciation of the unique and sometimes challenging landscape Svalbard offers or simply time for personal reflection and one thing is for sure, this afternoon at least gave us time for this. However, the day was far from over and in the daily recap Michael remained positive that we might still be able to muster up an activity later that evening for those that wanted - this was perhaps going to be a plan D or E! Whilst dinner was being served we sailed into Freemansundet and as was becoming true to form for this voyage, a polar bear was spotted within minutes. Although it was resting high up on the hill, once again our plans for a landing had to be aborted. However, it was felt that everyone would benefit from getting off the ship so it was agreed we would do an after-dinner zodiac cruise along the shoreline to try and get a better look at the bear and then make our way along to the glacier, which was now being illuminated in beautiful evening sunshine. As we finished our deserts and coffee the expedition staff lowered the zodiacs in to the water, ready for our embarkation. We made our way along the shoreline in a hope the polar bear would wake from its slumber and come down to see us, but it wasn’t meant to be on this occasion so slowly we headed along to Freemanbreen. The bridge then reported seeing a couple of other polar bears on the opposite side of the straight so we crossed over, but unfortunately, they must have been positioned too high up on a ledge for us to get a view from the water. At which point we decided to call it a day and head back to the Ortelius as it was already approaching 11pm and most people were ready for a warming night cap, tired from the highs and lows of a ‘true’ expedition day!

Day 7: Sundneset / Agardhbukta /Storfjorden

Sundneset / Agardhbukta /Storfjorden
Datum: 18.08.2017
Positie: 78°12.9‘ N, 021°10.1‘ E
Wind: NW 6
Weer: fair
Luchttemperatuur: 6

We had spent the night anchored in Freemansundet next to the glacier and the sleeping bear from the day before. In the morning, we noticed the bear had moved, but not far from its previous spot. We sipped tea or coffee enjoying the views as the ship hauled anchor and we set off for the morning destination of Sundneset. A light wind freshened the air, and stellar sunshine broadcast across the sky. Zodiacs were launched, the site was scouted, and finally we were informed we were clear to land. Separat-ing into long, medium, and photography groups we headed to shore to explore the tundra. Reindeer were spotted on the far ridges and as we looped around towards some of the fresh water ponds, red-throated divers were sited, as well as Eider and Barnacle Geese. The tundra was painted with blossoms of buttercup, Artic poppy, and a few saxifrage blossoms holding out as the quick change of autumn is on its way. We were all quite happy to have had the opportunity to stretch our legs, and headed back to the ship for lunch and a quick transit to Kapp Lee. Unfortunately, in the short time it took us to get there. The combination of wind and ocean swell made for unsafe landing conditions. The Captain re-directed the ship towards Agardhbukta, a large open bay on the western side of Storfjorden. The sun was still strong and many of us took the opportunity to stay out on deck enjoying the views and making for a little Arctic sunbathing. The wind kept with us until well into the late afternoon, when suddenly around 5:30 pm it dropped. The sea turned milky calm as if the 35 knots of wind was just a bad dream. Three fin whales were spotted, and the Captain slowed the ship to offer us a chance to observe these mighty animals of the arctic waters. After some time viewing we tucked into the lounge for an evening re-cap about the plans for tomorrow. Zsu-zsanna surprised us with complimentary mulled wine and we proceeded to the dining room for an indoor BBQ. After dinner, the Chinese guests started preparations in the dining room for making Dumplings! There was much laughter and cheerfulness as they prepared the components of dough and assorted fillings. End re-sult was over 900 dumplings made, the last ones finishing around 12:30 am. The long arctic day was not yet finished as more whales were spotted, Fin, Minke and even white beaked dolphins were seen about the ship. From 9:30 pm on until the sky turned a magnificent pink we could stay out on deck viewing whales and burning megapixels. A stunning evening to a fantastic day.

Day 8: Burgerbukta and Gåshamna, Hornsund

Burgerbukta and Gåshamna, Hornsund
Datum: 19.08.2017
Positie: 76°42.9‘ N, 015°29.3‘ E
Wind: ENE 2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +8

Hornsund is one of the most spectacular areas of Spitsbergen. Named by Jonas Poole, an English whaler in the 1600’s after his crew returned to the ship bearing a deer’s horn, it is a place of deep, high sided fjords, active glacier fronts and crenellated ridgelines. King amongst which is the mighty Hornsundtind, third highest peak on Spitsbergen and a sprawling mass of towers and buttresses. There was a sense of anticipation amongst the guides as we waited for Zodiacs to be lowered. The early cloud had begun to break up, splashes of blue creating patchwork in the sky and sunshine glistening on rip-ples from the wake of MV Ortelius. Most passengers shared our enthusiasm and dressed accordingly with sunglasses in abundance. The western arm of Burgerbukta was easily navigable yet still filled with chunks of ice ranging from fist sized through to colossally calved bergs relative to the size of Paierlbreen. As al-ways in good sunlight, the kaleidoscope of blues in the ice never fails to astound. Coupled with a myriad of different shapes and sizes, it was a visual smorgasbord for the lover of ice! Advancing northwards up the fjord, we passed kittiwakes, black guillemots and puffins before reaching the tranquility of the glacier front. A two km long stretch of ice wall which frequently gives birth to the treats we had witnessed further out. The scenery at this point is astounding - steep cliffs, soaring summits and tumultuous ice - breathtak-ing! For some of us the zodiac cruise got a little different turn when their zodiac turned into a piece of ice which punctured one of the pontoons. Slowly they had to make their way back to the ship and board a dif-ferent zodiac before they could continue with their trip. In the afternoon we crossed Hornsund to Gåshamna at the southern shores of the fjord. Just when we were about to get ready, Michael announced a pod of Beluga was seen. And what a pod!! At least 60 of these magnificent white whales were seen swimming on all sides of the ship. At first they were hugging the shores of the bay, but later they started to cross to the other side, coming even closer to Ortelius. A really good sight of these high Arctic whales for all of us! When they had disappeared we headed ashore. On shore we split up in the usual three groups where the long hikers went steep uphill to get a higher viewpoint over the fjord. The medium and leisurely groups took it slower. They both first had a look at the remains of the British and Dutch whales, who left a lot of whale bones and several blubber ovens on shore. A sad reminder of one of the darker pages of Spitsbergen history. After that a smaller hike was made over the tundra towards some remains of Pomor hunters and other view points. Back on the ship recap was brief, with just Szuszanna and Micheal explaining the program for the next day (including information about the disembarkation in Longyearbyen) and Arjen surprised us with a short movie made during our days in the ice. When we thought we would go for dinner a different call came through the PA: the pod of Belugas was found again in another bay. So instead of going to the dining room, we headed outside again to enjoy these special whales. After diner the show wasn’t over. The captain had brought the ship close to the Samarinbreen, so we dressed up again and went outside to look at the beauti-ful glacier in late evening light. A very nice view before we went to bed.

Day 9: Snatcherpynten and Recherchefjord, Bellsund

Snatcherpynten and Recherchefjord, Bellsund
Datum: 20.08.2017
Positie: 77°33.7‘ N, 015°05.3‘ E
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +7

During the night, we had sailed from Hornsund in the south further north to Bellsund, named after the bell shaped mountain at the entrance to the fjord. Well, the plan this morning had been to go ashore at Bam-sebu where the remains of the beluga whale industry can be found along the shore. Piles of white bones from the white whales could be seen from the ship but unfortunately white waves from the wind could be seen on the sea. There was a light covering of fresh snow up on the mountain peaks making it feel very much like Autumn was on its way. The wind was steadily blowing at around 28 knots so the Captain and Michael decided to find a more sheltered location for our mornings activities. We sailed into Recherchefjord and found much calmer conditions in the bay. From the anchorage, it was a short zodiac ride to shore at Snatcherpynten where the staff were already waiting to explain the hiking options for the morning. The long hikers headed up to the moraines while the rest of us explored the tun-dra at lower level. The first place of interest was the big wooden cabin, Gjaevervilla, leaning downhill to-wards the sea. This was built in 1904 by a Norwegian Johannes Gjaever who had tourist business ideas for the area; hunting reindeer but this business never really prospered and he sold the building to an English company, the Northern Exploration Company. NEC made claims to the area in 1918 hoping to mine the iron found in the rocks in this area but they never got further than the exploration stage and only got as far as storing the mine carts near the beach, which are still visible today. From the hut, the long hikers headed up onto the moraines for a walk along the side of the hill, passing a few reindeer along the way and the medium hikers followed a similar route but stayed on the tundra where they found some Arctic flowers still flowering, especially the Moss campion. They also enjoyed some close-up views of two male reindeer, one of which had a large set of antlers ready for the rut, the mating season in a few weeks’ time. All the groups met along the beach and had an easy stroll back to the landing site before heading back on board for lunch. Even though this landing hadn’t been Plan A it was a very good substitute which allowed good views of reindeer and a leg stretch over the tundra. Due to the wind conditions outside of the fjord system of Recherchefjord a decision was made between, the Captain and Expedition team to stay in the shelter of the bay for the afternoon rather than avoid miss-ing a landing at Midterhuken due to high winds. We dropped anchor in the bay in front of Recherchefjord and shortly after lunch we went ashore for the last landing of the trip. The staff ashore had secured a perimeter on the beach area leading to the lagoon and glacier so once ashore everyone was able to walk at their own pace and stop to take photos as often as they liked. Most people gathered at the lagoon edge and enjoyed some photo time while others found a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the views, soaking up the last of the Arctic here on Svalbard. At 3.15 many people gathered to take part and witness the Polar Plunge, a chance to take a swim in the icy waters of the Arctic. Amid screams and laughter there were plenty of participants willing to brave the plunge so well done to you all! Back on board and after hot showers for some it was time for those end of trip activities; paying bills and returning boots and lifejackets! By 6pm we were called to the lounge once more for Captain’s Cocktails, a chance to toast a very successful voyage and share our memories with our fellow passengers. It has been a fantastic trip with some wonder-ful and varied encounters with Polar bears as well as some memorable meeting with walrus, foxes and reindeer. There have been some natural challenges of wind and ice but we have always managed to find a Plan A, B, C or even D and given that we were often above 80° N it is hardly surprising that we encountered ice and wind….. After the farewell dinner, many of us gathered in the bar for farewell drinks! Cheers everyone!

Day 10: Longyearbyen

Datum: 21.08.2017

When Ortelius arrived at the port of Longyearbyen it was hard to believe that the expedition had come to an end – it seemed like yesterday that it had all begun. We have sailed around the archipelago of Svalbard and up into the Arctic pack ice and as far as Kvitøya. We’ve seen Polar bears throughout our journey, from that first polar bear encountered by the hikers on Phippsøya to the relaxed male bear on the ice to the females and their cubs on the way to Kvitøya. We’ve met people from all over the world all of whom have come together to experience the Arctic environment at first hand and it has been a truly unforgettable expedition. Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be! Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1125 nautical miles Furthest North: 80°22.5‘ N 023°54.5‘ E On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria, Expedition Leader Michael Ginzburg, Hotel Manager Zsuzsanna Varga and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.