||at 12:00: 77°57,3’ N/ 001°43’2W, at 18:00: 78°00’538 N/ 000°33’520E
||good vis., sunshine
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.