HDS11-19, trip log, North and Around Spitsbergen

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Longyearbyen

Embarkation, Longyearbyen
Date: 10.08.2019
Position: 78°14’ N 15°32’ E
Wind: N F3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

It was a beautiful summer afternoon in Longyearbyen when we all left our hotels to roam around town for the last time before joining Hondius, our home for the next eleven days. The old mining town has come a long way since the early exploration days. A supermarket, souvenir shops, restaurants and amazing museums welcome tourists from all over the world during the entire year. Longyearbyen was founded in 1906 by the US-American entrepreneur John Munro Longyear, but the history of the area goes back in time to the years of the Pomors, hunters from the north coast of Russia, and the officially documented “discovery” of Spitsbergen by Willem Barentsz in 1596. By 1600, most of us where already gathered at the local jetty ready to board. To our surprise, our ship was at anchor, but the Oceanwide staff were waiting for us with a big welcoming smile and lifejackets prepared so we could get our first zodiac ride! Adventure is always around the corner in the Arctic. Pablo helped us getting on the boats while Sara and Maru were looking after our luggage. We arrived to the ship and met the Hotel crew, who guided us to our cabins and later on to the lounge for our first mandatory safety briefings. Chief Officer Matei instructed us on how to conduct ourselves onboard an expedition vessel, followed by a safety drill and finally, dinner. The cherry on the pie was a great wildlife sighting after dinner: a Humpback whale feeding close to the ship, that we could enjoy not only from the outside decks and the open bow, but even from the lounge’s windows! As if this hasn’t been enough for a first day onboard, we all went down to the shell doors area for a rubber boot fitting party with some music and dance-testing together with the Expedition Team. We were now ready to get a good rest and prepare for the next days’ activity.

Day 2: Ny Ålesund & 14 Julibukta

Ny Ålesund & 14 Julibukta
Date: 11.08.2019
Position: 78º 56‘ N 11º 56‘E
Wind: N,F2-6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

We received our first wake up call onboard at 0730 to find ourselves sailing into Kongsfjorden, so that we were in position for our mid-morning landing at Ny Ålesund. The northern most permanent settlement on earth - and the only community in Svalbard not destroyed during WWII. The former coal mining village is now a scientific community operating under the Norwegian Polar Institute research governance. After breakfast we gathered in the lounge for staff introductions followed by the mandatory briefings required before we do any landings or cruising. These included the AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) Arctic protocol, and zodiac operations. By 1000 Hondius had docked alongside the Ny Ålesund pier and we began to disembark for a leisurely morning roaming amongst the town’s historic buildings, visiting the museum, shopping and sending postcards home from the northern most post office in the world. The historic village is one of the most significant locations for Arctic exploration and the launch point for numerous expeditions to the North Pole, including Roald Amundsen’s 1925 failed attempt in two “flying boats”, the N25 and N26, and his successful second attempt in the Italian built “air ship” Norge, with American financier Lincoln Ellisworth and Italian ship designer, Umberto Nobile in 1926. Morning walks began in the center of town, at the Roald Amundsen bust, and took those joining on a short walk to “The Mast”, the 35metre mooring mast of the Norge and Nobile’s doomed second flight in the airship Italia in 1928. On the way there we were fortunate to spot a majestic male reindeer, quietly grazing on the tundra. Afterwards we continued down towards the beach and to the memorial to those killed in a mining accident in 1958 before returning to the ship in time for lunch. In the afternoon we donned our arctic gear for our first zodiac cruise and landing at 14 Julibukta. The first group went ashore, and had the option to hike up the fjord along the beach for beautiful views of the magnificent 14 Julibreen glacier, which suddenly calved a very large chunk of ice causing waves to crash onto the beach. The second hiking option was to walk to the “hanging garden” under the cliffs of the fjord, where we spotted reindeer and a white arctic fox high on the tundra above. The second group went on a zodiac cruise around the fjord, taking in the rugged landscape, while keeping an eye out for animals that live in Svalbard, including seal, fox, reindeer and even polar bear. Mid afternoon the groups switched activities to finish the day. Back on board Hondius, our expedition leader, Adam, gave us a preview of our next day’s landings and then introduced our captain, Remmert Jan Koster, who joined us in the observation lounge, to welcome us on board and toast the success of the rest of the voyage with a glass of bubbly. At 1900 we headed for the dining room for a delicious four course dinner, and to share with our fellow travelers the excitement of our day on an expedition at the top of the world.

Day 3: Texas Bar & Monacobreen

Texas Bar & Monacobreen
Date: 12.08.2019
Position: 79° 61’40 N 12° 69’71 E
Wind: N, NW 5-6
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

Overnight we had sailed North to Woodfjord and were just cruising into Liefdefjord as Adam woke us up, we were greeted with overcast skies but glassy calm waters, making for some wonderful reflections. The expedition team started earlier in order to scout the shore line and the surrounding hills, as our plan was to take a hike onto higher grounds to enjoy the wonderful views that this bay had to offer. Following breakfast, we were shuttled ashore by zodiac to the two designated landing sites, those wanting to do the ‘fast and furious’ hike went first. This hike was led by Adam, Pablo and Sara and climbed to an elevation of about 200 meters above sea level, reaching a view point where we could see both Erikbreen and Monacobreen, the latter being the glacier where we would head for our afternoon landing. The second site was designated to all those who wanted to do walks at a more leisurely pace and have more time to take photos. The main feature of this landing site is an old trapper’s hut which was built in the 1920’s by a trapper called Hilmar Nois who used to visit the area for several weeks at a time during the winter. It was used over a couple of decades before the trapping and hunting became obsolete in these regions. Now this hut belongs to the Sysellmannen (Svalbard Government and law enforcement Bureau) and is used for logistics and occasionally by the locals from Longyearbyen and Ny Alesund who are looking for a weekend or holiday retreat. Plenty of polar flowers and mosses were observed, and we could also detect the effect of annual freeze thaw erosion on rocks, as well as see several variations of conglomerates and erratics in the landscape. In terms of fauna, most people saw plenty of birdlife including Skuas, Kittiwakes and Snow buntings and there were lots of reindeer tracks to be seen, but the creatures themselves alluded us. As the groups reconvened back at the landing site, for those feeling brave a polar plunge was offered! A few daring souls took to the frigid waters of the Arctic ocean, to come out reinvigorated and definitely ready for a hot shower. After a busy morning of activities most people were happy to head back to the ship just before 1200, for a well-received lunch and a little rest. Around 1430 we wrapped up warmly and boarded the zodiacs once again and headed towards the renowned Monocobreen, the plan was to cruise the 4km long ice face. The glacier is named after Duke Albert I. of Monaco who led and funded the expedition that mapped the glacier in 1906. During the cruise we admired the beautiful scenery, which was dotted with an array of bird life, including Kittiwakes, Arctic terns, Black guillemots, Arctic skuas, Long-tailed skuas and Glaucous gulls, most of which were busy feeding in the nutrient rich waters. A few lucky zodiacs also encounter a Bearded seal that was spotted swimming between the ice. It had been a cold afternoon so most headed to the observation lounge on their return for a hot drink, or something a little stronger to warm themselves up. At 1830 we gathered for our daily recap where Adam told us the plans for tomorrow, which was to head to the ice pack to try and find our first polar bear of the voyage! This was followed with a short explanation about Monacobreen from Jochem and a quick summary of how to identify different seals by Sara. Over dinner people reflected on the day’s events, there was definitely a very positive and upbeat vibe in the dining room and you could feel the excitement as to what our day in the ice tomorrow could bring.

Day 4: Pack Ice – in search of Polar Bears

Pack Ice – in search of Polar Bears
Date: 13.08.2019
Position: 80°42’ N 18°55’E
Wind: NW6-8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -2

Very early in the morning with a slight overcast sky and the expedition guides were already on the bridge looking for polar bears in the ice at around 0600. With our beautiful ship the bridge had navigated from our previous destination towards the north-east in the direction of the Seven Islands in order to find ice. And with the ice would hopefully we could find the polar bears. The captain also wanted to check how the conditions were in the ice, as this would affect our plans for the following days. We went over 80º֯ North early in the morning and after a few hours we found some promising ice conditions. For the majority of the guests onboard this was the first time in the pack-ice and for this reason we had a beautiful morning outside taking pictures and enjoying this remarkable landscape. After a good morning in the ice and a warming lunch, especially for those who had been outside all morning, the expedition staff decided to move the ship into another area, with the hope of being successful for polar bears in the afternoon. After lots of eyes looking for polar bears our first bear was spotted by the bridge watch. A large bear, which was laying on the ice and looked like it was sleeping. For this reason, we decided to stay a little bit away from the animal so that we did not disturb it. It was important to allow the bear to rest if it needed it. But fortunately for us, after a little bit of time looking at the sleeping bear it decided to wake up and have a walk around. It was looking at us and giving people on board a great chance to get some good photos. After an incredible sighting with this magnificent creature people on board were very happy after a day in the ice. Ready for a good nights sleep and another day in the ice looking for more incredible encounters. Thank you very much Arctic!!!

Day 5: Pack ice – in search of Polar bears

Pack ice – in search of Polar bears
Date: 14.08.2019
Wind: NW 3-4
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: -1

We woke up at 0745, surrounded by the beautiful landscape of the pack ice and a fog bank far away in the distance, which made the view amazingly atmospheric. Breakfast was served in the dining room, from where we could admire the scenery and start to feel the first bumps as Hondius pushed through the ice. While cruising the pack ice, staff and some of the passengers were up on the bridge exhaustingly looking for Polar bears through binoculars and scopes. Yellow pieces of ice confused many, and then as it started to snow, it got even more difficult to see in the distance. This didn’t discourage the crowd, who took one of the scopes to the outer decks and stayed on watch even during Catherine’s lecture on the Arctic Ocean, who helped us understand how everything is connected up in the Arctic, and how much life depends on the extension and health of the sea ice. At 1230 lunch was announced, after an intense morning of scouting without any luck. Midway through it, we heard the much-anticipated call on the public speakers: A Polar bear had been spotted from the bridge! We rushed our desserts and left the dining room, wrapped up warm, grabbed our cameras and off we went on the outer decks to enjoy the sighting. It was such a different experience from the day before, with the snowflakes falling down and the bear peacefully roaming around, all of us in complete silence we could really feel the immensity of nature. The Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the largest bear species on earth, and we have been able to witness its majestic presence twice so far. It was very interesting also to see its yellowish / creamy coloration, which certainly helped us find them amongst the pristine arctic sea ice. After spending some time observing the behavior of the bear, we continued our way South East looking for more wildlife and enjoying the sound of the ship pushing the ice away. At 1500 Sara presented a lecture on the main topic of the day: Polar Bears. Followed by tea time, which was suddenly interrupted by a Minke whale swimming super close to the ship! Everybody went to the outer decks to check them out, take some pictures and film the show this great mammal was offering us. From the biggest bear in the world, to the smallest baleen whale, it felt like a mind-blowing day! Recap was just around the corner, so we took off our warm layers to get a drink and join the team at 1830 in the lounge to hear about the plans for tomorrow and the experiences we had had today through some slides from Pablo and Jochem. Of course, the day finished with another great dinner prepared by the galley team, followed by drinks in the bar staring at the scenery while we sailed East towards our next destination: Kinnvita, a place where not many staff have been before but certainly all were very excited to explore.

Day 6: Kinnvika & Søre Russøya

Kinnvika & Søre Russøya
Date: 15.08.2019
Position: 80°04‘ N 18°21‘ E
Wind: NE F3
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +4

The day with the earliest wake-up call of all days! Or maybe not? What a pleasant surprise to see a note on the door of the dining room, indicating that we all could sleep one hour more: breakfast starts at 0700 instead of 0600. The reason for this change of plans came from a multitude of sources. Ice floes forcing us to reduce speed, an expected length of the zodiac trip to the landing site of multiple nautical miles and low visibility all added up to a clear ‘negative’ on our intended landing at Lagøya. Full speed forwards, direction Kinnvika! A first landing on the second biggest island of the Svalbard Archipelago: Nordaustlandet! The moonlike barren landscape at Kinnvika truly fits the description of a polar desert. The wet snow we got this morning was probably a welcome bit of moisture for the plant life here. Barren at first sight, Kinnvika actually shows the full pallet of colours once you start looking on the small scale. The guides created a perimeter for the passengers to roam around freely, allowing each and every one to search for colour and amazement in their own time. Several huts form the actual heart of Kinnvika. Most of them were built to be operated by Swedish and Finnish researchers during the International Geophysical Year 1957/58. Some huts have again been in use during the International Polar Year in 2006/07 and are therefore still in good shape, which allows for a visit inside them. Jochem took a small group of passengers on a quest to find fossilized stromatolites, the oldest fossils of Svalbard and the very first organisms (cyanobacteria) known to live from carbon dioxide, thereby secreting oxygen and basically allowing life as we know it to evolve! Spectacular, but not easy to find nice fossils here! Due to shifting our initial afternoon landing forwards, Adam, our Expedition Leader, (ever flexible) decided to use a completely new landing site, where none of the guides had ever been before. Søre Russøya, another jewel piece of polar desert. And yes, here the stromatolite was found in its original, unaltered beauty, as was a lot of plastic, which we happily collected to take back to Longyearbyen as part of the Clean Up Svalbard initiative. With everybody intrigued by the diversity we found in these deserted stony environments, we can speak of a beautiful moon-landing day, full of ‘stone rings’, stromatolites, red-throated divers, a polar bear skeleton, geocaching and raised beaches! In the evening, the snow had stopped falling and the sun dared to show itself through a thinner and thinner veil of clouds. Let’s see what tomorrow brings! Maybe some Guillemots at Alkefjellet?

Day 7: Alkefjellet & Torellneset

Alkefjellet & Torellneset
Date: 16.08.2019
Position: 79°61’ N 18°42’ E
Wind: WNW – SE F2-3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +3

Through the night we sailed south into the Hinderlopen Strait, and awoke in the morning in front of Alkefjellet – a beautiful cliff coastline teeming with Guillemots. As we left the ship for our zodiac cruise at the colony we were met with an incredible sight and a brisk breeze. The cliff coastline is shrouded from above by ice. Cruising along the coastline gives us a rare opportunity to be close to this huge colony of 60,000 breeding pairs of Brunnich’s Guillemot, with many thousands of birds flying in and out of the cliffs, bringing food to their young, who will leave the nest soon, and take to the sea. Indeed, we saw many young chicks in rafts on the water, having already taken the leap from the steep cliffs. They sat on the water with their parents; and here they will stay until they have grown and developed enough to take flight themselves. In the lower slopes of the cliffs we spotted an Arctic fox; on the lookout for its next meal. The Arctic fox will spend these fruitful months catching and storing as many eggs and chicks as possible in its den, in order to survive the barren winter months, after the birds have left the colony. Further along from the colony we cruise in front of the glacier Odinjøkulen, with a towering edge and majestic waterfalls. We returned to the ship, and were thankful for the warm welcome and delicious lunch prepared by the very talented galley team. During lunch we sailed further south to the polar dessert area of Torellneset. Before leaving the Hondius, we could see many large shapes on the beach! The area is a common haul out site for Walrus, and we were treated to a large number of walrus; estimated around 300 animals, on this afternoon. The ‘Fast and furious’ hikers landed first on the beach, and after some time watching the Walrus on the beach, a hike was led up and over the raised beaches of Torellneset; strolling along the proglacial meltwater channels, up to the large Mariebreen glacier. The scenic group also spent some time watching the walrus; these incredible beasts rest in large herds and are fascinating to watch as they bring their huge bodies out of the water and huddle together to rest. The unmistakable tusks are impressive and the males’ tusks can grow up to a metre long. The impressive views across Hinderlopen are a beautiful back drop to both the walrus haul out and the hikes taken over the raised beaches. After another beautiful dinner in the restaurant, the Hondius cruised along the magnificent Brasvellbreen glacier, which originates from the third largest ice cap; Austfonne. A beautiful icy landscape, with magnificent glaciers surrounding it. Late in the evening a blow is seen, and we are soon watching one of the rarest whales; the Bowhead whale, feeding close to the ship. These animals were decimated during early whaling years in the North Atlantic, and their current population numbers are in the low hundreds around Svalbard, so to see one is a rare and surprising delight. After a wildlife filled day in Svalbard, we head to bed to dream of flying birds, walrus and whales…

Day 8: Isnjornodden

Date: 17.08.2019
Position: 78⁰20’ N 21⁰63’ E
Wind: SW F4-5
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

The morning started off with an unexpected announcement, overnight Adam had had information from some other ships in the area that there was a walrus carcass that had some polar bears enjoying it. He decided to take a gamble and go for the polar bear sighting, rather than do our planned landing. A staff scout boat went out to check the behavior, ensuring no disturnbance was caused and see what other wildlife there might be. Shortly afterwards Adam announced our plans to the passengers, that we would zodiac cruise so that we could all enjoy this incredible sighting. All 15 zodiacs took to the water with a group of 7 boats going first in close formation to try and ensure we didn’t disturb the bears. We were treated to watching a mother polar bear and her two cubs who were most likely around two years old. There was also another polar bear nearby waiting for its turn to feed. It was spectacular to see these magnificent creatures up close and enjoying its breakfast. Also nearby there was a mother arctic fox with two cubs, equally waiting there turn to feed. On the hill we had spotted another two bears who didn’t come down to join the feast this morning but it was incredible to know there were six bears in such a small area. We headed back to the Hondius with huge smiles for all! After lunch the staff headed out to scout for bears at Sundneset, a few minutes into their scouting Pippa spotted a bear on a nearby beach. This meant that the staff needed to evacuate the landing site to ensure their safety. Polar bears can move quickly! So we moved onto plan B…, which was to head to a place called Kapp Lee and do a landing there. This was an hour away so everyone enjoyed another cup of something hot while we waited. Unfortunately, the polar bears were at it again, and one was spotted from the bridge sleeping on the hill above our potential landing site. Just goes to show how important the scouting process is! So we moved to plan C and decided to start sailing to our next days landings, meaning that we could hopefully do two activities tomorrow. Claudia gave us a lecture at 1600 on climate change and the importance of what is happening in the Arctic. The sun came out and lots of passengers enjoyed the evening sunshine watching the birds out on deck, before recap where Adam shared with us some of the photos from our ’Clean up Svalbard’ which was a brilliant achievement for all involved. We then all enjoyed our delicious dinner and looked forward to whatever tomorrow may bring!

Day 9: Burgerbukta & Samarinvagen

Burgerbukta & Samarinvagen
Date: 18.08.2019
Position: 77⁰04’ N 16⁰00’ E
Wind: W F1
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

We woke up this morning as we entered Hornsund Fjord, the weather was calm and some clouds hung from the high cliffs of the entrance of Burgerbukta, our designated site for our morning activity. Burgerbukta is a narrow fjord of about 2.5 kilometers wide on the north side of Hornsund. This fjord then divides into two bays, in the middle a jagged spine mountain resembles the back of a hedgehog. Hondius anchored in the middle of the fjord, and as we had breakfast, zodiacs were lowered into the water, and the expedition staff team got ready for the zodiac cruise into the west branch of this amazing place. At 0900 we started boarding zodiacs and started our way into the western branch of Burgerbukta, Vestre. As we penetrated into the Fjord, we were able to enjoy the maze of geology that the steep cliffs of Sofiekammen, the mountain ridge on the west side of Vestre. These cliffs show an incredible array of uplifted sedimentary rocks, from dark Triassic sandstone to yellowish Carbonate and Permian carbonates. All in this stunning cliff, that bares the marks of river runs tainted with reddish iron oxide. Some Puffins, Guillemots and Kittiwakes flew around the boats, dove into the water, and gave us a great welcome into the bay. Paierlbreen, the 2 kilometer long glacier in the back of the bay, has been really active in the last couple of weeks. This has left the fjord filled with brash ice, bergy bits and icebergs of all different sizes and as many different shades of blue you could ever imagine. As we snaked through the bits of ice, the few clouds in the sky dissipated and the sun started shinning onto the glacier and ice in the bay, which glittered and sparkled this maze of never-ending ice. At about a kilometer away from the front of the glacier we were finally stopped by the amount of ice in the water. Here we took some time, just sitting in the zodiacs, contemplating the views that Svalbard gifted us with on this spectacular location. Time flew, and it was already lunch time when we finally made it back onboard. As we enjoyed our lunch, Hondius repositioned to the south side of Hornsund into Samarinvagen. This is a fjord that holds a stunning glacier on its southern end, and as it has been retreating, it has exposed a small mount on its west side, that we eventually used as a view point on the afternoon excursion. At 1500 we got back on the zodiacs for a split activity. Half of us went for a landing and the other half went for a zodiac cruise into the front of the glacier for about an hour and a half, to then exchange positions, so we all had the chance to experience the views of this 3 kilometer wide glacier. A surprise awaited us amongst the bits of ice… our Expedition leader had arranged apple and cinnamon drinks with optional Drambuie on the zodiacs! What a way to top the zodiac cruise. Our experience on shore was just as exciting. The expedition team had arranged a perimeter landing for us, giving us the chance to climb up onto the retreating glacier and getting to a vantage point to have an over view of the bay. This short hike started on the moraine of an old glacier that now is just a thin layer of ice covered with rock that the glacier once scraped from the nearby mountains. These conditions made this glacier safe enough to walk on it, where Jochem waited for us and explained the incredible features we were seeing. The sun was shining bright in the sky as we approached Mariela on the top of the hill beside the glacier. The view was certainly incredible from up there. We came back down to the landing site and took a ride on the zodiacs one more time back to Hondius. Here we went through another session of recap and briefing, were Bjarni told us about some of the women polar explorers, and Sara was able to finish her recap about Arctic fox, that was interrupted by whales the previous afternoon. Adam told us about the plans of the next day, and DJ, the Hotel manager, gave us the surprise of a special dinner… BBQ on the outer deck! The sun was still shinning, while we enjoyed our dinner, and at the end we all danced to some fun tunes as Hondius slowly sailed out of the bay into a never-ending sun set. What a day!!!

Day 10: Swarthamaren

Date: 19.08.2019
Position: 77⁰32’N 14⁰45’E
Wind: E F4
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

We woke up to a beautiful morning with the sun shining, it looked a great morning for a landing. However, our plan A was not to be, when arriving into the area the bridge crew and staff spotted a tiny little white creamy dot far up on shore… Up go the binoculars and what do we see? Yet another polar bear shooing us away from our landing site. Adam went to work on finding us another area where we could go on shore for a morning walk. After an eventful morning of spotting polar bears swapping landing spots and rearranging our schedule, we managed to secure a landing at Swarthamaren. There we enjoyed a walk through some beautiful tundra while snow buntings, purple sandpipers and some juvenile seagulls flew around. When we got back on the ship, we made our way to Bamsebu. A sight known for being a center for beluga whaling in the area around the 1930s. Huge piles of skeletal remains from the belugas could be seen there. It is said that the bones at the sight belong to somewhere around 550 individual animals. In a small cove not too far away from the landing site there was an old winch, used to haul in a great net that would be laid out across the cove to trap the belugas. There the hunters could easily finish they’re bloody business and get them up on the beach. Because of all this whaling in the past the beluga stock dropped dramatically, but luckily the size of the stock is now slowly increasing. While half of the passengers were on shore the other half took a zodiac cruise around some of the small islands in the vicinity of Bamsebu. There we found three old upturned boats rotting away at the beach. Those islands are a popular nesting area for common eider ducks. That suited the Norwegian trappers in the area well, as they were able to supplement their income with collecting eider duck down from the nests. Similarly to the Dutch whalers in the 17. century the whalers of Bamsebu were mainly after the whale rich blubber that could be processed into oil. Mark later gave a short talk on the topic of whaling during recap and Sarah educated us on some of the special features of the reindeers of Svalbard. Of which we have so often seen grazing in the distance during our time on shore.

Day 11: Poolepynten

Date: 20.08.2019
Position: 78⁰44’N 11⁰88’E
Wind: NE F5
Weather: Rain/Fog
Air Temperature: +4

After 10 days of traveling on board a ship many things had probably become routine. Some say waking up to Adams mesmerising voice in combination with breakfast from the Hondius kitchens are the perfect way to start the day. Outside the weather was sunny and looking promising. Our first activity of the day was a landing at Poolepynten which is a well-known walrus haul out. The walruses were not as great in number, or as energetic as we found in Torrellneset, but a privilege none the less to have two quality encounters with one of the most peculiar creatures of the arctic. The Walrus relaxed on the beach totally unbothered by our visit. One walrus rolled itself off the beach and was later joined by another one going out for a swim. Next to the walrus some birders with a keen eye may also have noticed a greater blackback gull, the largest gull species in the world. The greater blackback is much less common in Svalbard compared to other species, for example the glaucous gull. On the shore we became aware of some rubbish on the beach. The crazy thing is that people are actually forbidden to pick up the trash by the Sysselmannen. Although this sounds very odd at first it is all for a good reason, as a survey is being regularly conducted on plastic accumulation on the beach. Most of the passengers also walked over to the two ponds that are close by the walrus. In spring the ponds are favoured nesting areas for birds such as arctic turn and red throated divers. Close to the ponds some of us also found very defined footprints from a polar bear that travelled through the area. While half of the passengers came on shore the other half were treated to a history lecture by Mark, who talked about the different industries that people have undertaken here on the northern edge of the world. From the days of exploration and mining to the tourism industry that holds up the economy of modern-day Longyearbyen. The afternoon landing was supposed to take place at Alkhornet. After meticulous scouting from the bridge the staff were confident that the area was most likely polar bear free and proceeded with landing preparations. This time though it was not our white fluffy polar bear friends that thwarted our landing, but the elements. When the staff got on shore, we quickly saw that winds and waves would become an issue. As it was hard to keep the zodiacs stable on the beach due to the heavy surf. The waves made it difficult to get passengers safely onto the zodiacs from the shell doors, and keeping the zodiacs stable when landed. As safety is always the top priority our expedition leader Adam decided to abort the landing operation and head back to ship. In the evening we were treated to a Captain’s cocktail and saw a slideshow prepared by Sara showcasing our amazing voyage around Spitsbergen. Where we saw some of the best sights the arctic has to offer.

Day 12: Longyearbyen

Date: 21.08.2019
Position: 78°14’ N 015°32’ E
Wind: NW F3
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +6

Our last day started with the last wake up call from Adam at 0700. Breakfast was shortly afterwards, and as the crew and staff were taking the luggage onto the pier the passengers made their way down the gangway to say some last goodbyes. Our amazing journey of exploration was over, but certainly some memories had been made for a lifetime. The arctic had certainly given us a great trip despite at times making us work hard for the experience! A truly unforgettable experience. Safe travels and we hope to see you back onboard soon! Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1412 NM Furthest North: 80⁰42.5' N - 18⁰55.9' E On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Remmert Jan Koster, Expedition Leader Adam Turner, Hotel Manager Dejan Nikolic and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.


Tripcode: HDS11-19
Dates: 10 Aug - 21 Aug, 2019
Duration: 11 nights
Ship: m/v Hondius
Embark: Longyearbyen
Disembark: Longyearbyen

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Hondius is the world’s first-registered Polar Class 6 vessel and was built from the ground up for expedition cruising.

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