OTL12-17, trip log, Around Spitsbergen

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Longyearbyen

Embarkation, Longyearbyen
Date: 03.08.2017
Position: 78°14.1‘ N, 015°36.6‘ E
Wind: NNW 3/4
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +14

Since Longyearbyen’s foundation as a coal-mining settlement in 1906 by John Munro Longyear, it has been the starting point for many historic and pioneering expeditions. The town has a permanent population of around 3,000 residents but this number increases significantly during the summer with the arrival of thou-sands a cruise ship tourists ready to explore the archipelago of Svalbard. Our adventure began with boarding our comfortable floating home for the next ten days – the M/V Ortelius at the pier in Longyearbyen. At 16:00 we were met at the gangway by members of the Expe-dition team who directed us to the ship’s reception where we were checked in and shown to our comforta-ble cabins. As soon as we had settled into our comfortable home most of us found themselves either on the outside decks to enjoy the views or in the bar for a coffee or tea. Soon it was time to gather in the lecture room for several welcome briefings. One was by our Expedition Leader Michael, another by our Hotel Manager Zsuzannah. We were then briefed by Third Officer Louis on ship safety and how to prepare for abandon ship procedures, should the worst incident happen on board. A drill of the general alarm, which was seven short blasts followed by one long blast was made and we all donned the SOLAS orange life jackets and mustered in the bar guided by crew and staff. After a roll call to assure everyone was present we went out to the lifeboats and some of us actually went inside to explore the cosy surroundings! We returned to our cabins briefly before regrouping with Captain Ernesto Barria in the lounge for a wel-coming toast of champagne or juice. This was also a chance to meet members of the Expedition team who will be guiding us on shore and keeping us safe during our time around Svalbard. It was then time to head to the dining room for the first of many delicious meals to be prepared by Heinz and his galley team. Meanwhile, Ortelius made her way through Isfjorden towards the open sea. After dinner, there was one final task to complete and that was the collection of rubber boots and life jack-ets from the lecture room. Staff were on hand to ensure we got the correct size and fit and were ready to go ashore on Svalbard in the morning.

Day 2: 14th Julybukta and Ny Ålesund

14th Julybukta and Ny Ålesund
Date: 04.08.2017
Position: 79°07.4‘ N, 011°48.1‘ E
Wind: SE 3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

Overnight we had sailed north past Prins Karls Forland and up into Kongsfjorden. As breakfast was being served we anchored facing the 14th Julibukta glacier which was to be the location of our morning excursion, a truly magnificent Arctic landscape surrounded us. Before going a shore, we had to attend a further two briefings; zodiac safety and polar bear safety as well as AECO Arctic protocol but it was no time at all till the zodiacs were lowered into the water to take us ashore. This morning’s excursion was split into two halves, with both groups rotating between the two different activities. The first group took a zodiac cruise along the cliff face to see the large colonies of puffins. It was great to be able to see these colourful little birds up close. Meanwhile the other group landed on the beach and took a short walk to the ‘hanging gardens’ to observe the pretty summer flowers which were now in full bloom. This little cliff face is sheltered from the wind and south facing so the plants her grow taller than anywhere else on Svalbard. Whilst on land we saw several reindeer feeding on the rich tundra vegetation below the seabird cliffs, some Arctic skuas with chicks, a cliff face full of nesting Kittiwakes and even got lucky seeing an Arctic fox. Foxes are very often found near seabird cliffs and time the arrival of their pups to coincide with ample feeding on eggs and chicks from the birds. This individual was a dark morph, a rich chocolate brown and it also had a satellite collar which had obviously been attached by one of the scientists working from Ny Ålesund. Following lunch, we set out for our afternoon landing at Ny Ålesund however, on route we received infor-mation from one of the other Oceanwide vessels, Noorderlicht that there was a polar bear on the coast opposite the research settlement. We went for a closer look and spotted our first polar bear of the voyage so decided to drop the zodiacs once more and go for a cruise to try and get a closer look. The bear was happily resting but kindly lifted its head a couple of times for our photos. Whilst cruising the shore line we spotted some inquisitive Harbor seals and plenty more Puffins, Arctic terns, Eiders and Purple sandpipers so it was turning out to be a wildlife rich day. As this afternoons plans had been delayed due to the polar bear we opted for an early dinner before land-ing at Ny Ålesund. This former coal mining village is now a scientific community operating under the Nor-wegian Polar Institute research governance and is considered to be the most northern settlement in the world. We were given time to wander around the museum, visit the small souvenir shop, send post cards home to loved ones and a few lucky passengers even got a wonderful sighing of the much sought after ivo-ry gull. Back on board, people either headed out on deck to enjoy the last bit of evening sunshine or to the bar for a celebratory drink to toast a very successful expedition day!

Day 3: Danskoya/ Worsleyneset /Moffen

Danskoya/ Worsleyneset /Moffen
Date: 05.08.2017
Position: 79°43.6‘ N, 011°04.2‘ E
Wind: W 2
Weather: Overcast/fog
Air Temperature: +6

This morning the weather was moody and atmospheric, a true testament to arctic summer with low lying fog and mist. We were woken early with news from Michael that two polar bears were on the beach ahead in Danskoya, feasting on the remains of a whale carcass. Visibility was low, however even from the ship we could clearly see one large male polar bear have a morning feed, whilst a second bear lay patient-ly up the beach headland waiting her turn. Some of us grabbed a quick coffee and morning pastry before gearing up for a morning zodiac cruise. Armed with cameras and binoculars we headed to the gangway. The expedition staff were already in the zodiacs waiting for us on the water. Excitement was abound and we tucked into the boats eager to get closer views of these magnificent creatures. Once all the boats were loaded, we proceeded as a semi-silent flotilla nearer to the carcass and feeding bear. As we approached the wind shifted slightly and we could smell the “freshness” of the whale. However, bears don’t care, this was a major bounty of food, to an otherwise challenging summer of fasting; waiting for the ice and seals to return. We watched the big male gorge himself for a stretch of time before he was decidedly full enough to leave. He did not depart quickly. We were able to observe the delicate natural balance of bear to bear interaction, as the large male left and the second bear stood waiting up the beach. There was a clear order of dominance and deferral between the bears, without sound or physical contact they seemed to negotiate the terms of feeding and sharing this bounty of food. The male departed and the second bear descended on the carcass. Farther up the hill about a 1 km away, a sow and cub were spotted; likely also waiting their turn. Meanwhile the bridge alerted us of a walrus swimming between the zodiacs and the ship. It was hard to know where to turn our attention! After approximately an hour and three quarters cruising our stom-achs began to call attention, and we headed back to the ship for a late breakfast and transit to the after-noon’s destination. The rest of the morning was relaxed with an opportunity for taking in views of the misty landscape, some of us also opted for a small polar nap in anticipation of the afternoon’s activities. Just before 12 pm, whales were spotted off the bow. The captain changed course enabling better viewing. It seemed to be 2-3 different individual whales co-operatively feeding and traveling together. On the bridge there was much discussion amongst the expedition staff as to whether we were viewing Fin or the mighty Blue whale. We respectfully followed them for some time, however the whales were not interested much in us and we each went our separate ways; the ship to Worsleyneset, in Liefdefjord and the whales to where ever the food might be. Thus it was also time for our mid-day meal, and we tucked into the dining room for a quick lunch in expectancy of the afternoon landing. As the ship came into position off the east-ern side of Andoyane or “duck islands” in Woodfjord we encountered two more whales close to the ship. These were immediately identified as Blue whales, the largest animal on the planet! It was a likely a cow/calf pair. The captain navigated Ortelius for optimum viewing and we were able to easily observe these magnificent creatures. What luck! The ship proceeded to our launch site and after a brisk five-minute zodiac ride from ship to shore we were ready to explore the tundra. Five different hiking groups set off in dispersed directions. The groups were made up of long or medium hikers as well as the plastic re-search group. We had about two hours to explore the undulating terrain; the landscape designed by per-mafrost and centuries of glaciation. A myriad of blooming saxifrage, Mountain avens, and Arctic poppies painted the tundra. The bird life was captivating, with nesting terns and arctic skua. A pair of red-throated divers were also observed flying overhead the freshwater ponds, likely holding nest of theirs. All too quickly it was time to return to the ship for a quick re-cap of the day and plans for tomorrow before heading into the dining room, where a scrumptious meal awaited us. Post dinner we had already navigated north-northeast to Moffen Island; a protected nature reserve where several dozen Walrus haul out on the low-lying sand bar. Back in our parkas and hats we headed to the decks. Spectacular specimens of nature, the mass of Walrus was keenly respected even from the distance of the ship. The days are long in the high arctic and it only seemed fitting that the hotel department should of-fer happy hour at 9pm. Fuelled by the excitement of the day and fresh stories to share the atmosphere on the ship was warm and jovial. Either with a night cap or a cup of tea, off to bed we went, to recharge for the next day of exploration in the Svalbard archipelago.

Day 4: Expedition Day in the Ice

Expedition Day in the Ice
Date: 06.08.2017
Position: 80°40.4‘ N, 019°39.7‘ E
Wind: Calm
Weather: Overcast/fog
Air Temperature: +4

Sjuøyane, the collection of islands marking the northern extreme of Svalbard, were the early morning des-tination for MV Ortelius and her explorers. However the encroaching fringes of the pack ice that slowed progress overnight, thwarted any chance of a landing in Isflabukta. No opportunity of a final leg stretch or photography at the promised walrus haul out before heading eastwards, ever deeper into the evocative seascape of the arctic ocean. Instead calm, overcast weather provided a suitably atmospheric sail. Reflections of ice and the aesthetical-ly symmetric islands of Nelsonøya and Vesle Tavleøya were pleasing on the eye and a satisfactory distrac-tion from the disappointment of not getting ashore. An abundance of seals; bearded, ringed and harp along with large pans of decaying first year ice kept hopes high for a sighting of a bear but as evening advanced and the fog developed strained eyes slowly but surely gave up. The most significant part of the day in terms of goals was reaching our furthest point north at 80° 52.50N, 020° 51.88E. Such a milestone easily draws the mind towards the early explorers and their various expedi-tions as they strove to reach the north pole. During the 1800’s many tried hauling sleds from Svalbard, whilst Nansen tried hauling sleds from his ship the Fram, beset in the winter pack ice. In 1897 Andrée em-barked on his doomed ballooning expedition, the exact fate of which wasn’t known till over thirty years later. Cook and Peary both claimed to have reached the north pole from the North American landmass during the early part of the 19th century but both claims have latterly been disputed. Then came the flying escapades of those plucky aviators of the 1920’s, amongst whom are some famous names in polar history. The most renowned is of course Amundsen, who in 1926 reached the north pole and in doing so undoubt-edly became the first person to reach both poles. The infamous crash and subsequent international rescue of Nobile’s airship Italia marked the end of the romantic age of north pole exploration. An interesting footnote to this epic tale though is that it wasn’t until 1968 that the north pole was undenia-bly reached overland by a multinational party using snowmobiles and 1969 that a British team accom-plished the same feat by dogsled. In exploratory terms, relatively recently bearing in mind that 1969 was the year of the moon landing! On days where no real activity takes place, it can be easy to become frustrated at the weather conditions or the wildlife. The Arctic experience though offers so much more. Whether it be a recognition of those who travelled here before and the various hardships they faced, appreciation of Svalbard’s unique land-scape or simply just time for personal introspection without that technological umbilical cord unavoidably linking us with the outside world. Whichever it was, I hope you took the time to really enjoy the peace and tranquility of the pack ice and were able to appreciate what an amazing environment we sailed through.

Day 5: Expedition Day in the Ice

Expedition Day in the Ice
Date: 07.08.2017
Position: 79°07.5‘ N, 011°49.5‘ E
Wind: SE 2
Weather: Fair
Air Temperature: +14

We had spent the night quietly parked up in the ice and when most of us had gone to bed the night before there had been fog at sea level and visibility wasn’t too good so we all slept with fingers crossed for better conditions in the morning. The magic obviously worked and we emerged from our cabins after the wake-up call to find clear horizons and perfect conditions for searching for wildlife. Throughout the morning the Expedition guides were on watch on the Bridge and decks with binoculars scanning every lump of ice and shadow to see if it was a bear. With such clear conditions, their search ra-dius was huge so it was challenging for everyone. Although no bears were seen during the morning the light conditions were fantastic and we saw some incredible Arctic phenomenon in the form of mirages and Fata Morgana which are inverted superior mirages caused by the mixing of warm and cold air. The islands we could see were almost 50km away and appeared like ships, space stations and tower blocks. Sailors in the past thought they were mystical pirate ships and witches! During lunch, the guides continued their search along with Captain Ernesto and just as we were finishing buffet lunch the call came over the PA that we had a bear. When everyone came out on deck it was just a spot on the ice but as we slowly approached the shape of a sleeping bear became clear and it appeared to be very relaxed about a large blue ship approaching! In the end, we were able to get very close and watch as it slept, listened to seals under the ice and occasionally glanced in our direction. It was a real privilege to watch a polar bear so closely and see it so relaxed. While we were watching the bear, the guides spotted another bear in the far distance so, when we had spent some time with our lazy bear we headed off to see if we could get a closer look at the second bear that was making its way across the ice. As we got closer we could see it going into the water from time to time to pass from one ice floe to the next as the pack ice was quite open in this area. We watched it swimming in some open water and approached it from the side to avoid chasing the bear while it was swimming. We got some great views of it as it climbed onto the ice, walked across the floe and jumped back into the water again. It was clearly on a mission and continued on its way, passing by the small ship, the Stockholm which was in the area. At this point we decided to leave the bear to continue its journey and we made our way to the helicopter deck where the galley and hotel teams had set up tables and benches and prepared an incredible BBQ with steak, sausages and ribs as well as salads. It was a little chilly out on deck but we were all still buzzing about our day in the ice with the polar bears and it didn’t seem so cold. Maybe the mulled wine helped!! After the BBQ many people made their way to the bar while other settled in for a quite night in their cab-ins looking through photos from the day. A very special day.

Day 6: Alkefjellet/Augustabukta/Kapp Oether

Alkefjellet/Augustabukta/Kapp Oether
Date: 08.08.2017
Position: 79°42.9‘ N, 018°14.5‘ E
Wind: NNE 4
Weather: fair
Air Temperature: +8

We woke to grey skies and thick mist; however no sooner had we had breakfast and were boarding the zodiacs that the clouds began to part and the mist began to lift to reveal the dramatic cliffs of Alkefjellet. Alkefjellet is home to one of the biggest breeding colonies of Brunnich’s guillemots in Svalbard and for this reason is an experience you will never forgot. We started at the glacier and slowly made our way along the steep sided dolerite cliff face which was teeming with life. We were lucky enough to get wonderful views of several Arctic fox that were scaring the shoreline in search of their next meal, (a small guillemot chick or an egg left unguarded by its parents). The foxes put on a wonderful show for us, traversing back and forth in front of our zodiacs allowing all the photographers to happily snap away. We also witnessed the viscous glaucous gulls devouring whole guillemot chicks in one gulp, this brutal sight was certainly not for the faint hearted! On a lighter note, some of the group were lucky enough to get nice views of a couple of bearded seals and walrus that seemed intrigued by our presence and actual approached the zodiacs out of curiosity. Of course, the main attraction was the thousands of guillemots and they didn’t disappoint. We watched as the adults went out to sea in search of fish for their hungry young, whilst it was time for some of the chicks to take the ‘leap of faith’ and hurl themselves from the cliff face in order to start their migra-tion south into open waters. After an action filled morning at Alkefjellet we made our way back to the Or-telius where a delicious lunch was waiting for us. While lunch was being served we sailed across the Hinlopenstretet straight to Nordaustland, the second largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. We landed at Augustabukta in bright blue skies and sunshine and this was to be the location of this afternoons activity. Augustabukta is home to the Mariebreen glacier yet is also a wonderful example of polar desert; with its wide, open landscape it was going to make the perfect location for some much-needed hiking after two days on the ship up in the pack ice. Sara, Iain and Jerry set off with the long walkers, aiming for a distant ridge, then the medium group set off and lastly the keen photographers and slow walkers ambled off to do their thing along the shoreline. There were a few reindeer on the upper slopes and for the birders amongst us there was excitement at spotting a pair of red throated divers. No matter which group you were in the views over the glacier and out into the straight were fabulous. Each group took time to stop, listen and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Arctic from their vantage points and bask in the glorious sunshine we were being blessed with. Back on board dinner was being served and we set sail towards Brasvellbreen where we hoped to do an evening ships cruise along the glacier front. However, as is common with expedition cruising we were forced to ‘Plan B’ when we arrived to find the glacier clocked in thick mist and barely visible. On route to Brasvelbreen, the bridge had spotted a large haul out of walrus at Kapp Oetker so we decided to return there and do an evening zodiac cruise to see them instead. Not only was there a large group of these cum-bersome creatures resting on the shoreline, but several small groups were milling about in the water. They seemed curious by our presence and approached our zodiacs, giving us a real sense of their sheer size and agility in the water and of course some wonderful photo opportunities. It had been a cold evening out on the water so we were delighted to be welcomed back on board by Zsu-zsanna and her team with delicious hot chocolate and rum, the perfect way to finish a long, but very exciting ex-pedition day!

Day 7: Kapp Waldberg/Sundneset/Kapp Lee

Kapp Waldberg/Sundneset/Kapp Lee
Date: 09.08.2017
Position: 78°14.8‘ N, 022°18.6‘ E
Wind: calm
Weather: fair
Air Temperature: +6

After an extended, but exciting day yesterday we awoke rested for new adventures. The fog had gratefully lifted and we found ourselves in the placid waters of Kapp Waldburg. The morning wake-up call from Mi-chael roused us out of bed, but many were already out on deck enjoying the views. A blanket of clouds skirted the mountains, but visibility was good. We headed off to breakfast only to be greeted by a new up-date from Michael. The plan of a morning landing at the Kittiwake colony would be canceled . . . we had bears in sight on both north and south sides of Freemansundet. After a bit of ship cruising to see the bears, it was decided to launch the zodiacs for a closer look. Cameras ready we piled into the boats. Soft sunshine lit up the tundra and with a balmy 8˚ the morning was very pleasant. We cruised over to the southeast end of the channel to view a bear feeding on a well-seasoned walrus carcass. A few glaucous gulls and kitti-wakes milled about snatching up little pieces of meat as well. The bear was looking in good health, but not such great hygiene. It looked as if it had been sleep/eating on the carcass for several days. Up above on a higher bench patiently waited a second bear. Not in any rush to force its way into the breakfast bonanza. After a good hour or so we headed back to the Ortelius for a brief break to sort through photos, have a bite of lunch while the ship transited to Kapp Lee for our afternoon outing amidst walrus, historical remains, and tundra walks. Calm waters all the afternoon made for great cruising down the fjord to Kapp Lee. As the ship moved into position the expedition guides were surveying the hills and beaches for wildlife. A nice sigh of relief, the walrus were “home “and not a polar bear in sight. After the scouting party thoroughly checked the landing we were free to head to shore. We again split into three different paced groups. A small party of twelve long hikers who set off to attain the peak of the ridge behind the landing. A large group of medium hikers, and the photography/beach combers all descended the beach of Kapp Lee. A nice group of reindeer were feeding on the tundra and the afternoon sunshine lit up the lush greens of vegeta-tion. In small groups, we headed down to view the walrus. Instructed by our guides we quietly approached the slumbering giants. Taking our time to observe individuals, some had clearly waged a few battles, a few individuals with broken tusks and the signs of seasoned age. Not a very long living animal, only reaching the age of 20 or 25 for the males, they were indeed quite large and a bit stinky. The herd or gathering dis-played classic thigmotaxis behavior (bodies close in contact) distinctive of walrus haul outs. We were able to view the beasts for twenty or thirty minutes before retreating back up the hill and back to the landing beach. All the hikers had returned from their journeys having had a nice leg stretch, a few took up the op-portunity to participate in a “polar plunge”. Not only braving the frigid arctic waters, but also swimming with walrus so to speak; as several individuals milled 300 or so meters off the beach. Returning to the ship we headed straight to another scrumptious dinner, after we had finished we headed up to the bar where the expedition staff presented a long-awaited re-cap. Michael went over the previous day’s events as well as what to expect for tomorrow. Several educational lectures were also given; Shelli spoke on the biology and identification of arctic seals, Iain demystified the physics of fata morgana (the strange mirage we had seen the sea ice), and Sara talked about the breeding adaptations and behavior of the Brunnich’s guille-mots we had seen at Alkefjellet. However, the night was not yet over as Karaoke began in the bar. Quite a few passengers partook in singing a few classics from both eastern and western music genres into the late evening sun. A full day indeed.

Day 8: Adventures in Hornsund

Adventures in Hornsund
Date: 10.08.2017
Position: 76°42.9‘ N, 015°29.3‘ E
Wind: ENE 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

Hornsund is one of the most spectacular areas of Spitsbergen. Named by Jonas Poole, an English whaler in the 1600’s after his crew returned to the ship bearing a deer’s horn, it is a place of deep, high sided fjords, active glacier fronts and crenellated ridgelines. King amongst which is the mighty Hornsundtind, third highest peak on Spitsbergen and a sprawling mass of towers and buttresses. Sailing in through the entrance to Hornsund pre-breakfast however, we were dismayed to see low cloud and grey skies obscuring the promised lofty spires. Instead, drab grey light and precipitation in the air lowered my spirits… The early pessimism was then challenged by shafts of light breaking through the stratus…could Hornsund be coming out to play? There was a sense of anticipation amongst the guides as we waited for Zodiacs to be lowered. The early cloud had begun to break up, splashes of blue creating patchwork in the sky and sunshine glistening on rip-ples from the wake of MV Ortelius. Most passengers shared our enthusiasm and dressed accordingly with sunglasses in abundance. The western arm of Burgerbukta was easily navigable yet still filled with chunks of ice ranging from fist sized through to colossally calved bergs relative to the size of Paierlbreen. As al-ways in good sunlight, the kaleidoscope of blues in the ice never fails to astound. Coupled with a myriad of different shapes and sizes, it was a visual smorgasbord for the lover of ice! Advancing northwards up the fjord, we passed kittiwakes, black guillemots and puffins before reaching the tranquility of the glacier front. A two km long stretch of ice wall which frequently gives birth to the treats we had witnessed further out. The scenery at this point is astounding - steep cliffs, soaring summits and tumultuous ice - breathtak-ing! After lunch Ortelius turned southwards toward Gåshamna and a landing site festooned with Pomor ruins, blubber ovens and whale bones. But in a turn of weather so fast, yet so common in polar regions, the winds had picked up to twenty five knots. Obviously, this is at the upper end of our safe logistical capabilities and we as a team are always planning on returning to the ship after each activity. Should the winds continue to increase then recovery of passengers and Zodiacs would become increasingly problematic and potentially impossible. A situation we all agree would have been sub-optimal! So with a tinge of disappointment we turned our backs on a landing and instead headed eastwards to the mighty glacier fronts at the end of Hornsund. One of the more modest, but still beautiful Mendeleevbreen - named after the founding father of the period table. Factoid! After leisurely cruising glacier fronts, Ortelius turned once again westward and northward, destination Bellsund. During the navigation staff gave a series of short lectures about some of the things we had been so lucky to see on our journey. Ali talked about the Walrus and the ‘Ice Maidens’, women who had spent time in Svalbard. Iain explained about the formation of glaciers and Sara presented a talk about Arctic fox-es. Our route through the entrance and then up the shelf lying west of Spitsbergen is a well known area for whales and the expedition staff and crew were accordingly stationed on the bridge, noses glued to the windows scanning the horizons for whale blows. A couple of Minke’s and three hours into watching, we were rewarded with a trio of Humpbacks. One adult, one juvenile and one calf. They were at first feeding and then playing and treated the ship to the whale equivalent of a drive by - coming within metres of the bow. We can assume the, at times comical noise of camera shutters shooting tail flukes was a sign of satis-fied passengers?

Day 9: Bamsebu and Camp Millar

Bamsebu and Camp Millar
Date: 11.08.2017
Position: 77°30.2‘ N, 014°39.6‘ E
Wind: ESE 8 3
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: +11

As Michael made the wake up call we heard the news that the wind and weather conditions were not in our favour again this morning with 30 knots of wind coming down the fjord system of Bellsund. It was going to be impossible to land safely at Bamsebu with this wind and the surf conditions on the beach so Plan B was devised and we sailed into the more sheltered waters of Recherchefjorden. This fjord system was named after the French La Recherche expedition that came here in 1839. On board was the first woman to ever set foot on Spitsbergen, Leonie d’ Aunet. The weather conditions were much better in the shelter of the bay and as we sailed in we could see the Recherchebreen stretching back into the mountains. This 16km long glacier has many tributaries and ends in a small lagoon behind what is the terminal moraine. The first group to go ashore were the long hikers who headed up to the moraines to see how far they could get towards the glacier itself. The rest of us enjoyed a perimeter landing where the guides provided a safe area for us to free roam while they kept a watchful eye on both passengers and surrounding hills. We were able to head towards a good look out over the lagoon towards the glacier and on the way we saw the foot-prints of foxes, reindeer and even an old polar bear track. In the lagoon there were stranded icebergs that had calved off the face of the glacier and were on the beach and floating in the lagoon. It was quite windy in this location with katabatic winds blowing up dust storms as they blew down from the glacier that stretched up into the mountains. It was nice though, to able to spend time exploring the area and taking photos of the ice and surrounding landscape. The long hikers managed to find a route up the side of the moraines to a viewpoint over the glacier. It was challenging walk in places with big boulders and some steep sections but the views were well worth the effort and everyone enjoyed the excursion. By mid day the wind that had been blowing so hard out in the main fjord of Bellsund had started to spread into Recherchefjord so we made our way back to the landing site and back on board the ship in time for lunch. As we made our way back into the main fjord we could feel the wind which was blowing steadily at 35 knots with gusts much stronger than that. The ship had a very definite lean as we enjoyed our lunch. The Captain navigated towards two other possible landing sites in Bellsund but the story was the same in each location; too much wind and therefore unsafe for zodiac operations. We made our way out of the fjord and began to sail towards Isfjord where we hoped to find some more sheltered waters and as we navigated up the west coast staff were on hand in the lounge to give some short presentations about some of the things we had seen during our voyage. Ali talked about reindeer and flowers while Shelli spoke about the Humpback whales we had been so fortunate to see last night. After the presentations, it was time for those end of trip activities; paying bills and returning boots and lifejackets! By 6pm we were called to the lounge once more for Captain’s Cocktails, a chance to toast a very successful voyage and share our memories with our fellow passengers. It has been a fantastic trip with some wonderful and varied encounters with Polar bears as well as some memorable meeting with walrus, foxes and reindeer. After the farewell dinner, many of us gathered in the bar for farewell drinks! Cheers everyone! A fabulous encounter!

Day 10: Longyearbyen

Date: 12.08.2017

When Ortelius arrived at the port of Longyearbyen it was hard to believe that the expedition had come to an end – it seemed like yesterday that it had all begun. We have sailed around the archipelago of Svalbard and up into the Arctic pack ice. We’ve seen Polar bears throughout our journey, from that first sleeping bear near Ny Ålesund to the bears in the pack ice to the dirty bear feeding on the walrus carcass. We’ve met people from all over the world all of whom have come together to experience the Arctic environment at first hand and it has been a truly unforgettable expedition. Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be! Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1096 nautical miles (2030 km) Furthest North: 80°52.5‘ N 020°51.8‘ E On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria Expedition Leader Michael Ginzburg, Hotel Manager Zsuzsanna Varga and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.