OTL13-15 Trip Log | Around Spitsbergen - Kvitøya
20.08.2015 by Oceanwide Expeditions Triplog
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 a fine day with only light cloud on the summits 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 dry, calm weather conditions were perfect for it.
Our expedition ship and home for the next week, the Ortelius was out at anchor but still ready to welcome all of us for an exciting journey!
We were met at the pontoon by members of the Expedition team and helped into lifejackets and onto the Zodiacs which would take us out to the ship. 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 in the Bar once again for Captain’s Cocktails, a chance to meet our expedition leader Jim, who introduced us to the rest of the team and toast our great adventure ahead with our 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. The weather conditions were calm and sunny and with Fulmars and Puffins flying around the ship it was lovely to be out on deck as well enjoying the long Arctic summer day. There was some gentle ocean swell that some people didn’t enjoy too much but overall it was a lovely evening. Tired after the long journey and all the new impressions and experiences many of us quickly found our bunks while the ship sailed into the open sea towards the north and the start of our “Around Spitsbergen” adventure.
Our first night on board was a quiet one and many of us were up and about long 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 beautiful mild Arctic day. The views across the bay to the glaciers of Kongsvegan and Kronebreen were stunning.
After breakfast we were invited to the lecture room to collect our rubber boots and this was followed by a mandatory briefing about our Zodiac operations on board Ortelius. These 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 11:30 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. Arjen, who spent some time living and working at Ny Ålesund gave a detailed account of the historic expeditions that left from this remote spot to fly over the North Pole so many years ago. The fine weather had been replaced by grey clouds and some rain but it still a lovely morning ashore.
As we got back to 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. There was, however to be a change of plan for the afternoon……. While ashore the Harbour Master at Ny Ålesund had told staff about some bears feeding just down the coast so it was definitely worth taking a look as we left the anchorage position.
During lunch the staff scouted the shore with binoculars and saw the bears at a Walrus carcass on the beach. They then lowered all 10 Zodiacs ready for us to all go on a Zodiac cruise as soon as lunch was finished.
Once all 10 Zodiacs were filled, Jim led the way to the shore and we began a cautious approach to make sure that we didn’t scare the bears away from their carcass on the beach. On closer viewing it was clear that this was a female and her 7 – 8 month old cub and they were making the most of the Walrus carcass that had washed up on the shore. We could clearly see the tusks of the Walrus and both the female and her cub were ripping blubber and meat from the carcass. They certainly didn’t look the typical clean, white fluffy bears that we’re used to seeing in all the travel brochures but rather were dusty and dirty with blubber and blood on their faces and paws! Maybe the female wanted to clean up a bit for the photos but she soon went into the water to wash and maybe cool down and she was joined by her cub and they played together in the shallow water.
Meanwhile, up on the ridge above the beach another female and cub arrived and we could clearly hear her growling and grunting as she tried to approach the carcass herself. The female on the beach returned to the kill and began eating again, maybe to protect the kill and the bear above settled down to sleep and wait her turn.
Back at the shore the young bear cub clearly had a full belly and was so relaxed that he started to chase a Glaucous gull that had been feeding on the kill and it chased it into the water and then what followed was just magical to watch. It was playing with a piece of seaweed and kept throwing it up and chewing it then diving down under the water to collect it and playing with it in its paws. Pure Polar bear magic and all the Expedition staff agreed that it was the female and cub encounter of the season.
We soon had to leave the bears and head back to the ship where, at 5pm we were invited to an AECO presentation about our behaviour in the Arctic and about our Polar bear protocols while we are on shore. It is important to remember that we can encounter bears anywhere ashore and at any time.
There was some time to relax, download photographs and have a pre-dinner drink before we were invited to the lounge bar for re-cap with the Expedition staff. Jim outlined the plans for tomorrow, Arjen talked about some of the mining history of Ny Ålesund and Ali explained more about Polar bears in general and the fabulous encounter we had been lucky enough to have during the afternoon.
It was then time for dinner and it was hard to believe that the first day of the trip was already done and what an exciting one it had been too!
After sailing north all night we were in position at Phippsøya, one of the islands of Søuyane, by breakfast time. It was an overcast day but this didn’t deter us from donning our outdoor clothes after being briefed by Jim in the Lecture room. The original plan of going ashore to observe the sleeping Walrus was changed as the scouting party had spotted a bear walking around, so instead we all boarded the Zodiacs for a Zodiac cruise by the shore. We split into two groups, Andrew leading the first and Jim the second, and set off. The initial approach to the Walrus that were hauled out was very slow as they were very nervous and restless thanks to the recent close proximity of the bear. Even the Walrus in the water were shy although there were a few brave ones who risked a closer look of the Zodiacs and their brightly coloured occupants. After a while the first group took off to try and find the bear while the second stayed for a bit more time with the Walrus. Both groups ended up having a very memorable cruise with some curious but restless Walrus for one group and some stunning, atmospheric scenery and an iceberg for another.
At the end of the landing we all returned to the ship, some faster than others, but it was all for the best, the more sedate pace allowed us more time to absorb the stunning scenery we were being driven through.
Once back on board it was with eager anticipation we lined up for lunch and shortly after the anchor was weighed and we set out to head further north in search of the pack ice.
After an afternoon siesta Andrew met us in the Lecture room where he explained all about sea ice, the importance it plays in the Arctic environment and the influence its formation has on the global climate. Towards the end of the talk we could hear the ice bouncing against the hull of Ortelius, signalling the end of the talk and the start of a magical experience as we lined the decks in foggy conditions to look at the ice drift past. Although visibility wasn’t great there was something quite surreal about travelling through the pack ice in the mist. Members of the Expedition staff were on duty on the bridge with binoculars glued to their eyes in search of white Polar bears on white ice in the white mist! It was going to prove to be a challenge!
Sadly, the bears were proving to be elusive this evening and the pack ice wasn’t as dense as Polar bears like to walk out on and visibility was making it really difficult to see anything in the fog.
Despite this dinner was a jovial affair and it was with some relief we tumbled into our bunks after a long day of fun and fresh air. At 9pm the Captain brought Ortelius to a halt and we parked up in the pack ice for the night to wait and see what tomorrow would bring?
Today was our bonus day in the pack ice: An unplanned and very much welcome addition to our itinerary. A day in the pack ice is often a highlight of a trip to Svalbard. When else and where else will we ever spend a day at sea crunching and grinding our way through large ice floes in search of Polar bears?
Our morning dawned overcast and foggy – much the same conditions we had encountered last night. However, our Captain is never one to miss a Polar bear and a mere 10 minutes after being called to breakfast there was a second call from the bridge to announce that a bear had been spotted! The Dining Room was left deserted. Half eaten croissants and cups of coffee were discarded as we made a quick exit, picking up our cameras and our warm layers on our way to the outer decks.
It was marvellous to watch this bear stalking across the ice, at one with its natural habitat. Perhaps we had seen bears in zoos, but to see one here in the wild was an entirely different and much more fulfilling experience. For half an hour we looked on in awe as the bear decided to continue on its trail across the ice. We never pursue a bear – it is the bear that is allowed to make the decision whether to approach us or not. Returning to the Dining Room we picked up our refreshed coffee cups and warm croissants as excited chatter filled the room.
Our day pushing through the sea ice continued and while the staff and crew kept an eager watch for more bears, our Expedition Leader Jim entertained us all with his interesting lecture about Andrée’s ill-fated Air Balloon expedition. Considering we were due to land at Kvitøya- where Andrée and his expedition mates perished after their balloon crash landed on the ice in 1897 – it was a fitting lecture and gave us a necessary and much appreciated insight as to the significance of where we were headed.
Outside the low lying fog wasn’t lifting, but that didn’t deter the most eager of wildlife spotters and throughout the day there was a super array of Kittiwakes and Pomerine skuas to be seen flying around the ship. Rather fittingly Arjen was due to deliver his presentation about seabirds this afternoon where he discussed many of the species we were seeing on this voyage, including the Kittiwakes and Skuas. Following Arjen’s lecture our lovely Hotel Team served us a hot chocolate treat on the top deck. Just as our spirits were being warmed by the hot chocolate Ali spotted a Polar bear in the distance. Perfect timing! The Captain began his well-practiced and careful approach and as we slowed down a good distance away from the bear it was obvious she was interested in the ship.
With a slow and steady lope, she made her way towards our big blue hull; stopping no further than a few metres from the side of the ship and staring up at us in what may have been bewilderment or curiosity. For us on board it was nothing short of incredible and it was a sight we were extremely lucky to see. For about an hour we all watched on in amazement and excitement, forgetting about our cold hands and faces as the bear took precedence. Our unplanned day in the ice had proved to be a fantastic one.
With no cracking ice along the hull and some ship movement Jim woke us up at 7:45 with the announcement that Kvitøya was already in sight: the most northeast island of the Svalbard archipelago. While the passengers enjoyed their breakfast and still talked about the curious polar bear of last day, a scouting team of two zodiacs got out to investigate the possibilities for a landing at Andréeneset. It is not often that landings can be made here. Usually the presence of too much ice and or polar bears prevents a visit to this historical site. Fog came in and especially the Swedish group of passengers, who were already fully dressed at the gangway just after breakfast started to worry because it took a long time for the Zodiacs to come back. And when the Zodiacs came back they were taken up again. A bad sign? No, not at all!
Expedition leader, Jim decided to split the group in two, to be able to make a landing. Because of the bad visibility he needed everyone to be able to get into Zodiacs should it prove to be necessary. Needless to say that the Swedish party - so involved in the history of the story of Andrée and his crashed balloon- were in the first group. To see for themselves where the story of the adventurers had ended.
All were excited to go for the first real wet landing and with the swell it certainly became a wet landing! It was now perfectly clear why to wear boots when going out of the zodiac on shore. Once the party was on land the sun came though and so did the smell of the walrus that had their haul out upwind on the beach. With polar bear watch-outs on both sides, the group had the opportunity to visit the monument and to take a look at the grave of Nils Strindberg that Jim had identified using the photos of the original grave. Then the group had the opportunity to walk to the edge of the icecap that covers the island.
During the changeover of the groups, a polar bear was spotted sleeping at some distance upwind of the landing site therefore the second group could only have a quick look at the monument as soon after the bear woke up and started to move in the direction of the group. In a very orderly way, the group was evacuated long before the bear reached the monument and the group enjoyed a closer look at the big group of Walrus on the beach from the safety and comfort of the Zodiac.
By the time the second group got back to the ship it was around 14:30 and once the staff and Zodiacs were back on board we headed along the south coast of Kvitøya to reach our next destination at the eastern end of the island.
During the cruising to that site Marion told about research on Barnacle geese in Ny Ålesund. After that during recap Arjen told about the Arctic Tern that we had seen this morning and its marvelous yearly migration from North to South pole and back again. Andrew told about the formation of icecaps such as we had seen during the landing. Like in the morning Jim asked the galley if they could be flexible again and prepare an early dinner to be able to explore Kreamerpynten at the other side of Kvitøya. Unfortunately by the time we reached Kraemerpynten the wind had increased to 20 knots and the zodiac cruise had to be cancelled and the ship set course to the next site to be explored.
Early in the morning the now well-known sound of the falling anchor sounded once again. In the night we have travelled from the white island of Kvitøya and further west to the island called Storøya. Where the name of Kvitøya is very fitting, the name of today’s destination isn’t! Storøya means “The Big” or “Great” island…and the sight that greeted us in the morning lacked a bit of greatness. The island is barren and as on Kvitøya, a great icecap covers the island leaving only a coastal edge of rock and gravel. This is the Arctic at its most hostile and a proper Arctic desert landscape.
Jim called us all together to talk about the plans for the landing and there we go again, the warm jacket on, life jacket on top of that and out to the gangways again. The guides were a bit less chatty than usual as they met us in the boats; there is again a bit of swell and staff and crew concentrate fully on their job to ensure a safe loading of everyone in the boats.
The Zodiac ride to the beach was a pretty long one as we are still so far to the east that there are no proper charts or soundings of the depths closer to the island. Even with cold fingers and faces it doesn’t take long for our long ride to pay off to pay off. After just a few minutes the guide-radio crackles and a voice from the boat in front tells about a Polar bear ashore. It is a mother and her 7 month old cub, both resting on the rocks close to the water. The female was quietly sleeping and only raised her head a few times as we circled near the shore. The cub had been lying on a snow patch nearby but did get up and walk across to check on its mother before settling down to sleep again in the snow. This was a very different sighting to our first mother and cub that we saw feeding on the Walrus carcass near Ny Ålesund. The cub seemed to be a little smaller and the female was certainly less active and we were to find out the possible reasons for this later, with Ali and re-cap.
After the first sighting we found ourselves in an Arctic wildlife extravaganza. We moved on to watch the big Walrus colony on the beach and with plenty of Walrus in the water and even hauled out on the rocks at the entrance to the bay there was plenty to watch from the chilly boats. While we were cruising in front of these beautiful, blubbery beasts, the third bear of the day showed itself, walking in land from us. We decided to follow its route and as we went around the next headland and into the bay, TWO more bears came into sight lying on a snow slope some distance away from the shore. These two were a mother and her 18 month old cub. The adult female was sleeping in a hollow in the snow while her cub moved around a little, rolled in the snow and then settled down to sleep at a higher point above her. It was amazing to see so many bears and so many walrus in such a small area of a generally ice covered island. By now everyone was beginning to feel very cold so the decision was made by our drivers to begin the journey back to the ship. It was an easier, drier ride back with the wind behind us a little.
After this bear-bonanza in the morning we got warmed up again on board Ortelius and wondered what the rest of the day would deliver. After setting sail to the south, towards our next destination, Isispynten, we hit the fog, as thick as soup. The staff members were on whale watching duties up on the bridge and decks but apart from an occasional clear spell it really was impossible to see more than 100 metres or so. The entire trip to Isispynten was in this fog, so everyone took some time to snooze before Andrew gave a presentation about Natural Climate Change. This issue is often controversial but Andrew did a great job of explaining the natural changes in our climate since life on Earth began and certainly gave everyone some ‘food for thought’.
At recap in the bar at 18:00 Ali told us about the bears we had encountered in the morning and compared them and their body condition and behaviour to that which we had seen earlier in the trip. Some of the ‘stranded’ bears may struggle to survive during these lean summer months, when food is scarce on these remote islands. Kasper then told us a very entertaining story about the trapper, Hilmar Nois and his two wives living up here in Spitsbergen. During dinner, we reached Isispynten, which is an island of the big glacier of Aust Fonna, but that used to be a spit of land connected to the main land by the glacier. The Expedition staff sent a scout boat out to access the conditions and see what they could find on the island. There was limited visibility and at least one Polar bear so the decision was made to launch all 10 boats and go for a cruise around the island, one group in one direction the other in the opposite direction. GPS waypoints were marked and we set off in the fog. The cruise that we did here was magical with beautiful eerie light in the fog and beautifully sculptured icebergs. There was one Polar bear standing on the beach at the back of the island and he was a true example of a weak, hungry bear that may struggle to survive the summer until the ice and seals return to this part of Spitsbergen. Despite this it was a fabulous evening and a great end to our day here to the far east in Svalbard.
Overnight we had left the eastern parts of the archipelago and this morning we found ourselves in Freemansundet, the sound between Barentsøya and Edgeøya. After another lovely breakfast, Jim informed us about our first landing. We were about to set foot on Barentsøya at a place named Kapp Waldburg. The main attraction of this place is a canyon with Kittiwakes breeding on both sides. Landing here isn’t something we can do on every cruise was stated by the fact that several of our expedition staff had tried several times, but had never managed to set foot ashore here this season because of the presence of bears. This time we really hoped not to see any, as many of us were looking forward to stretching our legs again. Fortunately for us we quickly got the word from the expedition team, who went out for a scout that the coast was clear and we were welcome ashore.
Ashore we split up in three different groups. One group would go a bit up, so they could have a look at the canyon from above, while the two other groups would explore the tundra a bit and then have a look inside the canyon. At the entrance of the canyon a big heap of bear poo was proof that we were still in bear territory, but the creator was nowhere to be seen, fortunately. Inside the canyon all our senses were stimulated. A couple of thousand Kittiwakes make an almost deafening sound and their guano gives a pungent odour. It was advised not to look up with an open mouth… But many of us spent quite some time looking at these birds, resting on the sides of the canyon or busy feeding their fairly large chicks. As the Kittiwakes fertilise their surroundings with their guano, the tundra near the canyon was quite rich, especially compared to the barren stony worlds we saw during the last days.
On the tundra we found some spider plants, several other saxifrages and some very old whale bones. Due to the melting ice caps since the last ice age and the isostatic rebound these whale bones were now found several hundreds of meter from the shore. After everybody had a good look at the canyon we headed back to the ship where we had lunch. During lunch we sailed through Freemansundet towards our destination for the afternoon: Dolerittneset. This spit of land on Edgeøya is often, mistakenly called Kapp Lee and is home to a group of Walrus. But before we had our first look from land on a group of walruses, we had to earn this sight. We split up in several groups, some staying close to the shore, while others made a bit a bigger loop or even climbed a mountain. The mountain goats encountered a typical Arctic tundra phenomenon: mud. Due to the permafrost the water can’t go deep into the ground, leaving the top layer very wet and sometimes muddy. Fortunately the boson had the hose ready for those of us who took a closer look at this specialty! For those of us interested in history there were some remains of Pomor huts and some, more resent, trapper huts. After a good walk, we all had time to stand on the beach and on the headland above to watch the big lumps of blubber with large tusks that were hauling out on the beach. We really did well with all those groups of walruses throughout the trip.
Back on the ship we had a short recap where Jim told us about the plans for the next day which we would be spent in Hornsund. After dinner we found ourselves in fog again, so we couldn’t enjoy the sight of Ortelius sailing through Storfjorden towards more adventures. Some of us went to their cabins for an early night, while others spent some time looking at pictures or having a drink in the bar.
After Jim’s cheery wake-up call at 7:45 we all emerged from our cabins to find the views obscured by thick fog once again so not the best start to the day on board. However, this was soon tempered by the fact that we had made really good progress during the night and had arrived at our destination earlier than expected. During breakfast, the fog started to lift and by the time we had finished we found ourselves in clear weather with stunning views of the mountains of Hornsundet, particularly the peak of Hornsundtind which rises to 1,431 metres.
Ali’s ‘Ice Maidens’ presentation was cancelled for the morning so that we could enjoy the stunning views and be ready for the first activity of the day; a Zodiac cruise up into the main fjord. We have done a few cruises on this trip but this was spectacular ice cruise with beautifully sculpted icebergs and crackling brash ice. We made our way up to the main glacier, the Paierlbreen where we were lucky enough to see some ice calvings from the face of the glacier. The sound across the fjord was loud and rumbling and just added to the soundscape as well as the ice experience. Some boats followed the cliffs back down the fjord where there were waterfalls cascading from the high peaks above and there were bright orange stains on the rocks from iron ore deposits in the rocks. It was a very dramatic, atmospheric view up into the misty mountains above where Kittiwakes could be seen circling around the cliff faces.
Back on board, it was time for lunch while the good ship Ortelius re-positioned around the corner of the fjord for our afternoon landing at Gåshamna.
As we got around the corner the mist that had been hanging around the mountain tops all day decided to descend to sea level and there was some concern from Expedition staff that it might spoil our afternoon landing as hiking in the fog in Spitsbergen is not an option!
After assessing the fog the staff went ashore to the beach in two different locations. The long hikers were going to start there walk at the ruins of the Russian expedition hut while everyone else would begin at the whaling ruins on the other side of the bay.
The long hikers went ashore first to be met by Ali, Arjen and Johnny and once ashore they had time to look at the ruins of the station where members of the Russian Arc of the Meridian expedition were based in 1899 studying and proving the theory that the earth was flattened at the poles rather than being completely spherical. They then began their long walk along the glacial flood plains to towards the far shore, a journey that was to prove interesting with some challenging river crossings with high levels of melt water from the glaciers above. The guides did a great job of finding safe crossing places and, with only a few wet feet in the group they continued on their way to the far side of the beach where Arjen explained about the whaling relics that were scattered on the beach, including a trapper hut that had been built inside a blubber cooker.
Meanwhile the medium hikers had been enjoying a walk around the headland to where there are some remains of Pomor huts down by the shore. The Pomors were here in the 17th century and hunted for whales in the waters around Spitsbergen. It must have been a harsh existence up here at that time. They then walked along the lower slopes of the hills which gave great views across the bay to the far mountains where the mist would lift from time to time to reveal the peaks and glaciers.
The long hikers continued around the headland to view the Pomor ruins but by this time the mist was beginning to descend once again and it was time to head back to the landing site and the dry warmth of Ortelius.
Back on board there was time to warm up and dry out before re-cap where Jim explained the plans for the next day and Michael reminded us that we would have to settle our accounts the following day before leaving the ship. With warming Gluhwein in our hands we made our way down to the dining room where the Arctic BBQ was beginning but this was to be a warm, indoor BBQ due to the wind and damp conditions out on deck. It was a great feast and a lovely way to end the day.
Our plan for the morning was to make a landing at a place called Ingeborgfjellet but due to strong South Westerly winds and a strong current the decision was made to find a more sheltered location for our morning landing. We had time for an extra cup of coffee before we would arrive at our new location called Bamsebu. This translates as “Teddy bear cabin” and is a great place name in this rugged, Arctic environment!
Once ashore we split into language and interest groups with three main hiking groups and the leisurely walkers. The Chinese guests headed up the hillside with Johnny’s mission to find some reindeer. Ali had spotted some along the coast and her group also hoped to get close to the reindeer. The photography group spent some time by the huts and whale bones close to the landing site before taking a walk in the other direction. The bones 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.
Along the hillside the reindeer ‘hunters’ were making good progress and could see a small group grazing just beyond the melt water steams. The approach was very much like we had done with the Walrus, walking slowly and quietly in a line with the guides judging the behaviour of the animals to ensure they weren’t disturbed. Our final position proved to be perfect as the reindeer came a little closer to inspect the colourful crowd and we could see some females, some younger males and a larger male; 8 in total. After some time and lots of photos we turned around and made our way back along the coastline to ensure that we had some time to look at the huts and the whaling relics at the beach. There was a rainbow over the bay which seemed to be a sign of our good fortune on this voyage.
Back on board lunch was served, our final lunch on board and as we re-positioned around the coast and enjoy the scenery along the way.
Just after lunch Jim made an announcement that we were all disappointed to hear. Due to the increased wind and deteriorating weather we would be unable to make a landing during this, our last afternoon. However we really shouldn’t be disappointed as we have had an incredible trip with some very memorable encounters with Arctic wildlife. 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 pretty typical Arctic summer weather that had us sweating in the sunshine on occasion but also freezing in Zodiacs! What a wonderful trip to remember!
During the afternoon we were invited to settle our accounts with Michael and Heidi and then return our rubber boots to the staff in the Lecture room. These ‘Muck’ boots have kept our feet dry and clean going ashore, hiking through mud and crossing melt water streams.
By this time Ortelius was out into open water and a few people were beginning to feel the effects of the motion of the ocean and were a little seasick but for those feeling ok Kasper was on hand in the bar to give his presentation about the trappers of Spitsbergen. In this modern era of conservation and following on from our wonderful experiences with bears and walrus it is hard to believe that so many species were hunted and persecuted up here for so long.
There were other ‘housekeeping’ duties to perform during the afternoon such as our own packing
In the evening we were invited to join the Expedition staff and Captain Ernesto for “Captain’s Cocktails” in the bar which was a chance to toast our wonderful Arctic voyage around Spitsbergen, high into the pack ice and east to the very remote island of Kvitøya. It has been a fantastic trip to remember!
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 the post at Longyearbyen ready for us to disembark, which was a dry landing compared to our embarkation and our landings throughout the trip. Once we had enjoyed our last breakfast on board we were able to disembark at 09.00 am, for our bus to town and later to the airport.
Total distance sailed on this voyage:
1220 Nautical Miles / 2259 Kilometres
Our most northerly position:
81°18.1’ N / 023°21.1’ 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!