||79°43.5’N / 011°22.00’E
Waking up north of the Smeerenburgfjord, we make our way into the to the peninsula of Smeerenburg at Amsterdamøya. Captain Toni positions Hondius just between Amsterdamøya and Danskøya. Activity of this morning is split Zodiac Cruise and a landing at Smeerenburg.
The cruise takes us along Virgohamna, where we find historical remains from the several different attempts to reach the North Pole. The most important, but also most tragic, was the attempt of Salomon August Andreé, Knut Frænkel and Nils Strindberg with a Balloon. They all died on Kvitøya, after their balloon crashed in the pack ice.
We also hear stories about Walter Wellmann, just when we pass some remains of these times. A lot of harbour seals are lying on the rocks, looking like bananas, and some of us are lucky to spot a Minke whale during the cruise. We go ashore at Smeerenburg, which means ‘blubber town’. About 20 brown and blubbery Walruses are snoozing on the eastern end of the peninsula, and we get the chance to observe and photograph them while they yawn, roll and scratch themselves. Not a lot of action while they are digesting their clams.
Turning around, we can see a lot of Arctic Terns mating, since their breeding season has just started. Of course, this place is mainly known as one of the largest land whaling stations in the 17th century. Starting in 1616, the mainly Dutch whalers built solid houses and ovens for cooking the blubber that is extracted from the whales. We walk along the line of the ovens and are really stunned about the good condition of some of the 400-year-old blubber ovens.
During the walk along the coastline, we also pick up a lot of plastic. Mainly fishing-related rubbish like nets, buoys and pieces of plastic boxes. This is very dangerous for the birds and other animals, Sara tells us in the recap. ‘They eat this and die of starvation’. After a fully packed morning, we return to the ship and enjoy lunch.
The ship travels further to the north. Just north of the Smeerenburgfjord, the islands of Klovningen and Ytre & Indre Norskya appear. Hondius positions itself between these three islands, and we go for a long Zodiac cruise all together. There are birds everywhere: Black and Common Guillemots, Puffins, Fulmars and Arctic Terns, Eider Ducks and Barnacle Geese. Some of us are lucky to spot two Bearded Seals, and one of them is singing to attract a female! Others can witness a Glaucous Gull trying to eat a sculpin in one piece. The gull struggles for 15 minutes, but then finishes the meal successfully. After 2 - 2,5 hours of cruising, we are happy to be back on the ship and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. In the recap Sara tells us we will be in the pack ice in about an hour, and we will also cross the 80° N this evening.
After dinner, we hurry up to go out on the bow or to the bridge. The ice is fantastic, and Captain Toni safely navigates Hondius through it. At 20:40 p.m. we cross the 80° and Captain Toni himself does the announcement. Many of us have come to north with this aim and there are a lot of happy faces on the bridge. Let´s see what happens next.