This morning we were woken by our Expedition Leader Jan, while we were still sailing along the west coast of Spitsbergen. The first part of the morning was spent with some mandatory briefings on how to behave ashore without disturbing the environment and how to behave in Polar Bear territory. Even though we already had first-hand experience from our wet zodiac ride yesterday, we also attended a briefing on how to get in and out of zodiacs safely.
After these mandatory briefings, we got to practice our newly learned skills as we went out for a zodiac cruise in the northwest corner of Spitsbergen. Just before the start of the cruise, the plans changed. Plan A, a cruise between some islands towards a glacier, was changed to plan B as Jan found a mother and cub Polar Bear on a nearby island. So, when all of us were in the zodiacs, we headed towards Fuglesangen. The mother and 1.5-year-old cub were walking along the shoreline and allowed us very good views. After a while, they went into the water and slowly swam towards the next island, Klovningen. After a while, many of us were cold and Sebastian and Sava were waiting for us with dinner, so we all went back to the ship.
During lunch we moved a little deeper into the Smeerenburgfjord towards Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya. Here we went ashore for several different activities. First of all, there was a group of Walruses hauled out on the beach. Even though they weren’t very active, it was still great to see these true Arctic pinnipeds. Another group went out for a walk along some lakes in the hope to find some birds. Several different species were seen, like the Pomarine and Great Skua’s, Sanderling, Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone. While walking along the shores, we found many pieces of plastic. The expedition team had brought some garbage bags, and many of us helped cleaning up the beach a little.
Especially a large fishing net was important (and complicated) to take away, as animals like Reindeer can get entangled in it.
After a great dinner by the hotel team, Jan called us to the bar for one more meeting. This time he explained us the plans for the following day, which would bring us into the sea ice halfway Greenland!! After this, Melissa and Arjen explained a little about the Polar Bears we saw today, after which Arjen continued to show some maps and animations about the disappearance of sea ice due to climate change. A bit a sad story, but everybody was excited to see this very special polar habitat the next day.