OTL12-15 Trip log | Around Spitsbergen

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Longyearbyen

Date: 01.08.2015
Position: 78°13.8’ N / 015°36.10’ E
Wind: wind from NW, Force 3
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +12

Longyearbyen is a former coal mining settlement with a population of about 2,300 and is one of the world’s northern most settlements. It was named after the American, John Munro Longyear (1850-1922), who was one of the founders of the Arctic Coal Company (1906-1916). Coal is still produced in a mine near Longyearbyen but not in quantities like in the early part of the 20th century. The settlement is situated in a beautiful fjord and with such clear sunny weather as we were experiencing it was a fabulous day to enjoy the views across the fjord and up to the head of the bay.
With embarkation not until 4pm there was plenty of time to explore the small town, either visiting the fabulous museum or taking a walk along the shore to the dog kennels where a large number of Eider duck and Banacle geese can be found on the ponds. Some people had been further afield on bus tours and dog tours but whatever the activity the warm sunny weather conditions were perfect for it.
Our expedition ship and home for the next week, the Ortelius was alongside the old coal dock, ready to welcome all of us for an exciting journey! There was a little delay in embarkation as the fresh food provisions arrived at exactly the same time as us so we waited while the staff and crew loaded the most northerly bananas, melons and pineapples!
Once on board we were met at Reception by Michael and Heidi and shown to our cabins by the friendly hotel staff. Shortly afterwards, once we had started to find our way around the ship we were invited to the lecture room on Deck 3 where Michael gave us a useful speech about the ship, from basic rules about toilet system to high tech wifi and internet connections. This was followed by a mandatory SOLAS, safety at sea briefing which was given by our Third Officer, Warren and outlined our abandon ship procedures and how to react in case of distress signals. This was followed by a practice drill where we collected our big orange lifejackets and gathered at the muster station in the bar to be checked off the list. It is always good to know such things, and hopefully never need to put them into practice!We then gathered around our expedition leader Jim who introduced us to the rest of the team and we all toasted to our great adventure ahead with Captain Ernesto Barría. After a great dinner, prepared by the chefs Christian and Mathew, we were sailing in the large fjord of Isfjorden. On both sides of Isfjorden flat-lying sedimentary rocks only 45–60 million years old were exposed, very young compared to most other parts of Spitsbergen, carved by recent glaciers to display beautiful U-shaped valleys. Tired after the long journey and the new impressions, the bunks were quickly found while the ship sailed into the open sea towards the north.

Day 2: Kongsfjorden & Krossfjorden

Kongsfjorden & Krossfjorden
Date: 02.08.2015
Position: 78°56’ N / 011°54’ E
Wind: ESE 4
Air Temperature: +12

Our first night on board was a quiet one and many of us were up and about a long time before Jim’s wake-up call at 7:15. The sun that had been shining since our arrival in Spitsbergen was still shining and it was another mild Arctic day.
After breakfast we were invited to the lecture room for the mandatory briefing about Zodiac operations on board Ortelius. These rubber boats would take us from ship to shore and back again so it was important to know how to embark and disembark the boats safely. Immediately afterwards we put the theory into practice and made our way to the gangway to go ashore at the world’s most northerly settlement; Ny- Ålesund. This former coal mining settlement is now an International research station with representations from Norway, Holland, China and India where scientists study aspects of marine ecology as well as atmospherics and climate. The settlement buildings are owned and managed by the King’s Bay Company which also runs the souvenir shop.
Our first landing was onto a dry dock and from here we made our way up to the settlement to visit the shop, the photo exhibition, the post office and, for our Chinese party, the Yellow River station. At 11:45 we met at the statue of Amundsen ready to take a walk out to the mast where he had begun his flight over the North Pole in the airship the “Norge” in 1928 with Ellsworth and the Italian Nobile. David gave a detailed account of the historic expeditions that left from this remote spot to fly over the North Pole so many years ago.

By the time we were back in the settlement it was time to make our way down to the harbour once again to make our way back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we were asked to attend another essential briefing about our afternoon landing and our behaviour ashore where there is always the potential for Polar bears. Our guides are experienced and well qualified and will do everything they can to keep us safe.
For the afternoon in the Fjortende Julibukta (14th of July Bay, named after the French national day by Duke of Monaco Albert I during his expeditions to Spitsbergen between 1905 and 1908) we were split into two groups to share the time between a Zodiac cruise and a leisurely walk ashore. During the cruise we were taken to a sea cliff where there was a mix of Brünnich’s guillemots and Atlantic puffins – the northernmost breeding population, and then up into the brash ice that was a result of very active calving from the glacier. There were some loud crashes as large chunks of ice calved off into the bay and hauled out on one of the larger ice floes was a Bearded seal with its fabulous curling whiskers.
On shore the guides led groups along the tundra behind the beach towards a small area known as the Hanging Gardens, which has rich Arctic plant life such as Drooping Saxifrage and Mountain Sorrel. On the way there was a skull from a male reindeer that had a huge set of antlers which provided a great photo opportunity but more interesting to see where the real reindeer making their way across the scree slopes in the distance.
Between the two activities this afternoon we were able to experience this stunning little bay at its best and it was certainly a great start to our adventures ashore.
Back on board we were invited to the bar for re-cap where Jim outlined the plans for tomorrow, Ali talked about the birds of the day, the Kittiwake and the Arctic tern and Katja explained about the formation of the spectacular ice halos and sun dogs which we had seen during the morning.

This was followed by a well-earned dinner and some time to relax after a busy first day.

Day 3: Andøyane and Texas Bar

Andøyane and Texas Bar
Date: 03.08.2015
Position: 79°41’ N / 013°24’ E
Wind: Light Air
Air Temperature: +7

Thanks to good time management we all made it back to the landing site on time and after we were once again on board we gathered for recap in the bar where Ali introduced us to our birds of the day which today was the Northern fulmar and a Super-puma helicopter and Andrew explained where the rocks we had been seeing started their life over 400 million years ago.
Dinner was served directly after and as a special treat, for dessert we made our way to the top deck where we enjoyed our pannecotta and listened as Katja described the scenery before us, taking in the impressive Monacobreen glacier and surrounding landscape.
As Ortelius sailed back out of Liefdefjord and further north, many of us stayed up, happy to sit and talk about another fantastic day while marvelling at this spectacular part of the world.
It seemed like no time at all before the call came out for us to return to Ortelius and so we bid adieu to the bear and turned our Zodiacs for home. It was a surprise to realise we had followed the bear for so long that it took us well over half an hour to make the journey back to Ortelius!!

On the way back to the ship it was learnt that one of the crew had suffered an accident which required a medical evacuation and soon enough we could hear a helicopter approaching our area. The staff cleared a landing site onshore for the helicopter and after it had landed the crew member was picked up and taken back to Longyearbyen. We wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.
Over lunch and, thanks to some skilful navigation by our Captain, we made it to our afternoon landing at Texas Bar without any delay to our activities. During the pre-landing briefing we split into three groups, the long, medium and leisurely walkers. After being ferried ashore in that order we set off under the close supervision of our guides and roamed the surrounding terrain, looking at the wildlife, the flowers and impressive hills and glaciers that extended off into the distance. It felt good to stretch our legs (to varying capacities) and to gain some height, allowing us to get a better perspective of Liefdefjord under a huge blue sky.

The good weather continued today and the early risers enjoyed the mirror like reflections in the water as Ortelius sailed into Woodfjord. As the Captain manoeuvred us into position at Andøyane the guides scouted the surrounding land looking for wildlife. Our search paid off as our first Polar bear of the trip was spotted during breakfast. All the zodiacs were launched and under the guidance of Katja we set off to get a closer view as the bear wandered along the shoreline.
For the next two hours we followed the bear as it strolled along, looking for food and going for a swim to cool off in this unusually warm weather. Arctic terns, Kittiwake and Northern fulmars were happily feeding in the nearby waters, not disturbed by our passing and in fact searching our wake for any morsels that were bought to the surface by our passing.

Day 4: Phippsøya and Entering the Pack Ice

Phippsøya and Entering the Pack Ice
Date: 04.08.2015
Position: 80°39’ N / 020°53’ E
Wind: WNW 2
Air Temperature: +11

Calm conditions and the distant blows of Walrus greeted our approach to the island of Phippsøya this morning. The favourable weather that has accompanied us so far on our voyage north continued with sunshine and clear skies allowing the scenery of the Seven Islands to light up around us. Despite the sunshine there was a noticeable chill on the air as we made our way towards shore in the Zodiacs – these fresh temperatures are to be expected as we head ever further north to the outermost islands of Svalbard.

The cool temperature was soon forgotten as we disembarked the Zodiacs on the shingle beach and began our hikes. The intrepid long hikers made it up the steep rocky slopes of Phippsøya where they were rewarded with marvellous views across northern Svalbard. Meanwhile, the medium hikers crossed the island, via deep wet snow to seek views across the sea and towards the pack ice further north and the leisurely walkers enjoyed a stroll along the beach to enjoy the birds and the small chunks of sea ice which were still dotted along the shoreline. It was a successful and enjoyable landing for every group and to add to the successes of the morning many of us encountered Walrus as we returned to the ship in the Zodiacs. For those already on board, the upper decks proved to be the best vantage point for observing these blubbery creatures.

Once everyone was back on board the Captain heaved anchor and headed due north; leaving the Walrus of Phippsøya behind and advancing ever closer toward the pack ice. Only a couple of hours of sailing north we entered the ice with the characteristic crunching and grinding as Ortelius sidled into the ice. The Captain, Officers and ABs on the bridge steered us clear of the threatening fog with their careful and skilled navigation as we ploughed further into the ice. Down in the Lecture Theatre Andrew was entertaining those of us who weren’t out on deck or up on the Bridge with his lecture about Sea Ice. Following Andrew’s interesting presentation David then gave us an insight into the rich history of Svalbard with his presentation about Andreé’s ill-fated balloon expedition.

No sooner had David finished his presentation than he made his way up to the bridge to begin his Polar bear watch and spotted our first bear in the ice! Needless to say our planned re-cap was cancelled as we spent the evening observing not just one, but two bears - the second one being spotted not long after the first. With dinner changed to a buffet we were able to eat and get back out on deck as quickly as we wished and many of us took the opportunity to spend more time enjoying the sight of these fascinating animals.

The second bear, which had been dozing all evening, decided to saunter up to the top of an ice ridge where it happily sat in a prime position, allowing us to take a number of super photographs from our vantage point on board the ship. Indeed many of us spent the majority of the late evening enjoying the view of this bear before it eventually decided to wander off into the distance across the vast expanse of sea ice. It had been a very special day on the northernmost islands of the Spitsbergen archipelago and a great start to our pack ice experience.

Day 5: In the pack-ice nearby Sjuøyane

In the pack-ice nearby Sjuøyane
Date: 05.08.2015
Position: 81°09’ N / 021°25’ E
Wind: SE 3
Air Temperature: +7

about natural Climate change through the history of planet Earth so we had two very interesting and relevant topics for where we find ourselves just now.

During the afternoon we had begun to make our way north eastwards to a very remote island way to the north of the mainland of Spitsbergen. The weather en route was calm and clear and the reflections of the islands in the water and of the ice were absolutely stunning with mirror images in the sea. It was a beautiful afternoon. There was some ice along the way but we hoped that it wouldn’t slow our progress or even prevent us from getting close enough to do the planned Zodiac cruise.
An early dinner was served and the Zodiacs were then launched for a post-dinner cruise around the beautiful and very remote Island called Karl XII Öya. It was a long ride in but well worth it to arrive at this seldom visited location. Staff had hoped to find some Walrus hauled out on the beach and although a couple of boats saw one in the water it was a deserted island in terms of the big mammals we were hoping to see. There were Eider ducks and ducklings along the shore, Black guillemots on the lower rocky outcrops and Kittwakes high up on the sea cliffs. There might not have been any big animals at home but we got a great wilderness experience at a place that actually is at the end of the world.
It looked to be standing near a kill and as we got closer we observed the bear feeding on what could only be a seal carcass. It wasn’t the only one making the most of a meal as the area was dotted with Glaucous gulls and Ivory gulls which pleased our birding friends immensely! Never mind the bear look at the birds! These Ivory gulls are a true Arctic species with pure white feather and they spend all of their time in the high Arctic. We approached as closely as the ice and, of course viewing regulations allow and the bear decided to wander off away from the kill. There was still meat left on the carcass but bears are primarily after the blubber of the seals as this has the highest calorie content so maybe the bear would return to the carcass later for an evening snack. It curled up on a snow mound and went to sleep, a post-lunch snooze.
It didn’t sleep for long though and it soon stood up and walked in the direction of where a seal was hauled out on the ice. It seemed like it didn’t see or smell it immediately but when it did it went into full hunting mode, crouching down and stalking from behind the snow bank. We had now the huge luck to see a Polar bear in action hunting its main prey. The bear very carefully approached the seal and dived down under an ice floe to try to reach it but the seal was faster and slid in to the water before the bear had a real chance. It only missed the seal by inches! Good for the seal but not so good for the Polar bear!

In the afternoon we finally had the opportunity to listen to Katja’s presentation about Polar bears, how the species has evolved and how it is adapted to its Arctic environment. Later in the afternoon Andrew talked
The fog had lifted during the night, thank goodness and the visibility was now very good for watching Polar bears in their right environment. With sunshine making the snow and ice glow white it was easier to see the yellowish colour of the bears out on the ice. With a high ice class Ortelius can not only push away quite substantial pieces of sea ice she can break through thick ice allowing us to get to places that many other ships can’t. Again the Captain and offers on the Bridge were doing a fantastic job of not only keeping us safe in the ice but getting us into great ‘bear territory’ and indeed helping with the bear watch.
After breakfast Katja was all prepared and standing by in the Lecture Room to give a presentation about Polar bears but just as she was about to be announced it was postponed because the real thing was just passing by the ship. Why look at picture of bears when you can see the real thing! So everyone wrapped up warmly and went out on deck and we had a magical experience seeing this beautiful animal walking on the pack ice. The cameras were sounding like machine gun fire while the bear slowly walked away into the big white icescape. The reflections of the bear in the water between the floes were beautiful and provided great photo opportunities for everyone on board. From the Ortelius Bridge we had now seen one more bear in the distance and very slowly we approached the bear standing on an ice floe.

Day 6: Hinlopenstretet and Alkefjellet

Hinlopenstretet and Alkefjellet
Date: 06.08.2015
Position: 79°56’ N / 017°39’ E
Wind: SE 4
Air Temperature: +4

Overnight we made good way from Karl XII, north of Nordaustlandet, to Hinlopenstretet.
After breakfast David entertained with an interesting lecture about the history of Svalbard, all the way from the 1530’s and the discovery and up to modern times and the fight for the North Pole.
Hinlopen, is the narrow sound that divides the island of Spitsbergen and that of Nordaustlandet, it runs in a north-south direction and carries large amounts of small marine life, like fish and krill, with the currents.
Because of all this life that is found in the Arctic in the summer, we were so lucky to encounter the biggest animal this planet has ever developed, the mighty Blue whale. Once almost hunted into extinction, less than 1000 animals were left globally, but are now slowly recovering after a total protection act on a global scale.

These whales can muster a body of 25 to 30 metres and somewhere between 90 and 120 tons! (biggest ever is said to have been 33 meters long and 190 tons!) We were lucky enough to see this whale feeding which ensured that we had a great view of its tail, its fluke, as it inverted its huge body mass and made a vertical dive down to depth. It did this several times while we were watching which made for some fantastic photographic opportunities for everyone.
With this super sighting before lunch we headed further south in the Hinlopen, while working our way south, two new lectures were on the plan. John was schedule to talk to the Chinese guests about his transition from an IT man into a polar guide, and Andrew would talk about Glaciers in Australian for the rest of us. In the end Andrew was re-scheduled to the post-dinner slot due to our whale sightings during the morning.

In the early afternoon we got the Alkefjellet in sight. This translates at ‘Mount Guillemot’ and, indeed we were to find out why during the course of the afternoon. The fog that had been covering parts of the landscape, lifted just as the Zodiacs were lowered onto the water, so now we could get a good look at one of the biggest bird cliffs of the archipelago. Some 60,000 breeding birds are found here, mainly the Guillemot, this little black and white bird that almost looks like an Arctic penguin. They live in this vertical cliffs sticking out of the sea, to be close to their food source AND to be safe from predators. We were very lucky to be able to see two different types of predation this afternoon, the small Arctic fox in his brown and grey summer coat and the Glaucous gull. All of these predators have a good time at this time of the year, living on the eggs, chicks and even adult guillemots. After more than 2 hours in the boats, we were all ready for getting back on board.

In the evening we once again had recap, this night with Jim about our further plans, Erin read a story about the old whaling days and talked about the Blue whale and Ali talked about “the bird of the day” which was: the Brünnich’s guillemot of course!
Andrew concluded this busy day with his presentation about glaciers, of which we have seen quite a few on our travels and after a night-cap in the bar it was time for bed.

Day 7: Dolerittneset, Edgøya

Dolerittneset, Edgøya
Date: 07.08.2015
Position: 78°05’ N / 020°45’ E
Wind: SSE 4
Air Temperature: +6

In the night Ortelius had made its way through the Hinlopen Strait into Freemansund. Our plan was to go ashore at Kapp Waldburg on Barentsøya. However, a polar bear that was spotted from the bridge thwarted these plans. He was too close to our landing side and unfortunately too far inland to go Zodiac cruising. So instead we watched him from the ship through our binoculars till he disappeared in the moraine hills of the glacier. As we sailed up the fjord another bear was spotted near the very top of the hills on the port side of the ship but it was only visible through binoculars and telescope. It just goes to show that we can encounter bears anywhere and on all types of terrain and at any elevation.
Later that morning Katja gave a talk on modern climate change. She explained how the greenhouse effect warms up the Earth and what consequences that has for the Arctic: Sea-ice melt, glacier retreat and permafrost thaw. But as Einstein said, in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity and we have a choice how we want to live in future.

After an early lunch we went ashore at Kapp Lee on Edgeøya, which is also called Dolerittneset, because there are many rocky dolerite outcrops. The long hikers went ashore first to be met by Andrew and Ali who led them up onto the top of the peak behind the beach. En route they saw Reindeer feeding on the rich tundra vegetation, found fossils on the upper slopes and Ali spotted a Polar bear way off on the far hillside – this was a safe enough distance away from our landing site! The views from the top were spectacular on a day like today.

Near the shore there were also remains of a Pomor (Russians from the White Seas) hunting station with sun bleached walrus and whale bones, a sad reminder of the slaughtering that once occurred here. Norwegian trappers built the octagonal hut in 1904 and stayed here while they hunted bears and foxes but today it is peaceful here and the walruses have returned. We watched around 30 of them hauled out on the beach. Some were also swimming in the water.

An Arctic fox ran past the Walrus haul out and nearly stole the show. Some friendly reindeer with big antlers grazed in the tundra and showed no fear when we took them into a photographic cross fire. After everyone had viewed the Walrus doing their thing (which isn’t very much most of the time) it was time to wander back to the beach and head back to the ship. Some groups were lucky enough to see some Walrus in the water on their way back which really gives another perspective on these blubbery animals.
We came back on board in time for a tea and beer before the re-cap. Erin told us more about the biology of the walruses, while Ali talked about arctic foxes and Andrew explained the geology of Alkefjellet where we went for a zodiac cruise yesterday.

Already during the recap we felt the shuddering of Ortelius, a clear sign that we were driving through sea-ice again. The Storfjord was filled with loose pack ice. After dinner it was fantastic to be out on deck and watch the ice floes in the soft evening light. Some seals were spotted on ice floes and Kittiwakes, Ivory, gulls and Fulmars followed the ship picking up little polar cods that were chased from their hiding places when Ortelius crunched through the ice. Wide smiles on many faces confirmed that it was a great day.

Day 8: Storfjorden and Hornsund

Storfjorden and Hornsund
Date: 08.08.2015
Position: 76°18’ N / 016°42’ E
Wind: S 4
Air Temperature: +8

Kasper rounded out the afternoon’s entertainment as he divulged what it was like to spend a winter on the island archipelago of Svalbard as well as introducing us to its trappers, their tools of trade and what they were there to hunt.
There was time for a pre-dinner drink at re-cap where Jim described the plans for tomorrow, Michael explained about settling our accounts (yes, all those drinks at the bar have to be paid for at some point!) and Ali played a Top Trumps game, the battle of the poles to see which species from the Arctic and Antarctic would win a game according to their characteristics and adaptations to their environment. A bit of fun at the end of a sea day and this was followed by an excellent ‘Indoor BBQ’ with ribs, steak, sausages and salads served up in the warmth and comfort of the dining room.

After dinner we found ourselves in Hornsund at last with stunning views over the glacier and the misty topped mountains. A grand finale to the day.
Jim’s delightful voice welcomed all and sundry to the new day with news that came as no big surprise to those of us who were woken up by bumping ice last night, our arrival to Hornsund would be delayed. The drifting ice had extended further than predicted by the ice charts and in true expedition style our course was changed to reflect this. To take advantage of this new course we set out to look for whales and were promptly greeted by three feeding not too far from Ortelius, one Blue, one Fin and a smaller whale thought to be either a Minke or baby Fin whale. We stayed with these masticating monstrosities for about half an hour before leaving them to feed and set out to look for more. The fog was not entirely cooperative throughout the morning but luckily enough we had Ali entertain us with her talk on notable women of the Arctic. She described the Inuit culture of the Canadian Arctic before talking about some of the women who pushed the boundaries and made their way in a ‘man’s world’ of hunting and trapping in Spitsbergen. It was interesting to see how they managed it and the effect it had on them afterwards. Many of them were thoroughly bitten by the “Polar Bug” and returned to the region on numerous occasions.

By the time lunch was announced, the fog had dissipated enough to allow a good area of ocean to be scoured for tell-tale whale blows. We continued to skirt the edge of the continental shelf, turning mid-afternoon to take advantage of a course to Hornsund that would follow a submarine canyon and its nutrient rich upwelling waters.

Erin started our afternoons lecture program with a very informative and interesting talk about how whales have adapted to dive to the depths and times that they do. No sooner had she finished than another call was put out, we had spotted a blow not too far from the ship. This time it was a feeding Fin whale, diving for about 7 minutes before re-surfacing to take a breath and diving again. It proved somewhat elusive and so after watching it for about 40 minutes we turned back to our original course, keeping a weather eye out for more blows.

Day 9: Bamsebu and Midterhuken, Bellsund

Bamsebu and Midterhuken, Bellsund
Date: 09.08.2015
Position: 77°34’ N / 015°03’ E
Wind: E 5
Air Temperature: +7

Our plan for the morning was to make a landing at a place called Bamsebu, which translates as “Teddy bear cabin”! A great place name in this rugged, Arctic environment!
Just before 9am the long hikers were called to the gangway, as they were to go ashore at a different location to the rest of the group. In total 23 passengers were taken ashore to walk around the coast with Kasper and Jim. They encountered some very friendly reindeer that came for a closer look and along the shore there were some upturned boats which were relics of the beluga whaling era.
The Zodiacs then followed Ortelius around the coastline to the landing site in a sheltered bay. It needed to be sheltered as, at the ship it was gusting 32 knots at times and there was a steady strong wind coming down the fjord. The officers on the Bridge did a great job positioning the ship to make disembarkation easier (and drier!) for the Zodiac drivers and passengers.

Once ashore we split into our usual groups and the medium hikers headed out to the huts where there are also huge piles of whale bones along the shore. These are all from Beluga whales which were hunted here in the last century. They were trapped in the bay using nets slung between boats and then slaughtered on the shore with only their bones left as a relic of their destruction. The boats that were used are now upturned and those, along with the bones and huts created some fantastic creative photo opportunities for everyone. From here the hiking group split into two and headed up the tundra to where some reindeer had been spotted on the hillside. The reindeer were enjoying the rich summer grazing and we were able to approach quite close until they took fright at the brightly coloured crowd of observers and headed off along the hillside.

The bird enthusiasts were treated to some nice views of Pink footed geese and Barnacle geese, in the air, on the tundra and in the water and as we made our way back along the coast some Purple sandpipers and their chicks were also seen scurrying along the ground. They are extremely well camouflaged and it required a sharp eye to spot them! Meanwhile the leisurely hikers had been enjoying a stroll to the huts and whale bones as the long hikers made their way along the coast to the landing site. By 12noon we were all back at the beach and making our wet way back to the ship where it was a little bouncy at the gangway once again; our first wet Zodiac ride.

Lunch was served, our final lunch on board and as we re-positioned around the coast we were invited to settle our accounts and enjoy the scenery along the way. Staff on the Bridge spotted some Beluga whales, the white whales that we had seen the skeletons of during the morning, but they are elusive creatures that don’t have a distinctive blow and only show a small section of themselves as they surface. We sadly didn’t see them again.

The afternoon landing was in a very scenic bay called Midterhuken where the staff went ashore first to create a safe perimeter where everyone could walk, explore, relax, take in the view and reflect on the trip we have almost come to the end of. The high sea cliffs were home to hundreds of Kittiwakes and their cries could be heard all around the bay as they came and went from the colony. There were adult birds and juveniles on the rocks and in the water nearby which made for some lovely photographs and all along the shore there were Purple sandpipers feeding and Eider ducks paddling. It was a lovely time for just enjoying the peace, serenity and beauty of the Arctic although for some of our guests it was a time to get out the National flag and pose on the top of the rocks for their own personal record of being here in Spitsbergen. At the end of the landing those who wished to could take a “Polar Plunge” and have a swim in the chilly Arctic waters, which incidentally were around 7°C. There were lots of screams and shouts ringing around the bay as they did so! It wasn’t your typical summer swim at the beach!

Back on board there was time to finish settling accounts and then take a shower before joining staff and our Captain for cocktails to toast our voyage around Spitsbergen.
We have seen Polar bears on land and on the ice and Walrus hauled out on the beach. We’ve seen the rich tundra vegetation which feeds the reindeer during the summer months and we have seen thousands of seabirds, both at sea and in their high sea cliff colonies. All of this has been experienced in some beautiful high Arctic summer weather that had us sweating in the sunshine instead of freezing in the snow, especially during the first few days. What a wonderful trip to remember!

Day 10: Longyearbyen

Date: 24.01.2019

It was now time to say farewell to our great adventure, to our safe floating home and to our lovely new friends! This morning Ortelius was alongside. Half of us had the early morning flight and then woke up at 02.30 am to jump in the bus at 03.15 am. The rest of us disembarked at 09.00 am, for our bus to the airport.

Total distance sailed on this voyage:
1,185 nautical miles / 2,195 kilometres

Our most northerly position:
81°09.4’ N / 021°18.1’ E

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barría and the Officers,
all Crew, Expedition Team and Hotel Team, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!


Tripcode: OTL12-15
Dates: 1 Aug – 10 Aug, 2015
Duration: 9 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Longyearbyen
Disembark: Longyearbyen

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