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OTL14-16, trip log | Around Spitsbergen - Kvitøya

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen

Embarkation in Longyearbyen
Date: 22.09.2016
Position: 78° 13.7’ N / 015° 36.2’ E
Wind: NW 3
Air Temperature: +11

Longyearbyen is the capital of Spitsbergen. This former coal mining settlement has a population of about 2,300 and is one of the world’s northern most settlements. Longyearbyen is named after the American, John Munro Longyear (1850-1922), one of the founders of the Arctic Coal Company (1906-1916). Coal is still produced in a mine near Longyearbyen but not in quantities as seen in the twentieth century.

With passengers coming from all over the world, arrival days and times into Longyearbyen varied but everyone had some time in the centre of the capital. Some people shopped while other visited the excellent museum in the large modern university building. On display in the museum is the whaling history of the archipelago and plenty of information about wildlife, early exploration and World War II.

Our expedition ship and home for the next week, Ortelius was alongside the pier of Longyearbyen and we arrived at the ship at 16:00 ready to start our Arctic adventure in Spitsbergen. We were met at the gangway by members of the Expedition Team and in small groups we went on board to check in at Reception with our Hotel Manager, Michael and Heidi, the Assistant Hotel Manager. We were shown to our cabins by members of the hotel department and were soon settling into our accommodation.

Our stay on board started with a short briefing from Michael about our home for the coming days. This was followed by a very important safety briefing, done by the Third Officer Louis about abandon ship procedures and how to react in case of distress signals. We then had to put the theory into practice with a full drill during which we collected out orange lifejackets and gathered at the muster station in the Lounge bar. We were also shown to the lifeboats. It is always good to know such things, and hopefully not put them into practice!

It was then time for a formal introduction to our Expedition Leader, Nathan Russ who explained a little bit about the forthcoming trip and introduced us to the rest of the Expedition team. With our champagne glasses filled we all toasted to our great adventure ahead with Captain Mika Appel.

After a great dinner, prepared by the chefs Przemyslaw and Roden, we were soon sailing out of the large fjord of Isfjorden to start our journey north. 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 and carved by recent glaciers to display beautiful U-shaped valleys. There was one last task to do before heading to bed and that was to collect boots and life jackets ready for our first activities in the morning. There was some motion on the ship so most people went to bed early while the ship sailed into the open sea towards the North.

Day 2: 14th of Julibukta & Ny Ålesund

14th of Julibukta & Ny Ålesund
Date: 23.08.2016
Position: 79° 07’ N / 011° 48’ E
Wind: NW 3
Air Temperature: +7

There had been a little motion in the ocean last night as we made our way north but it was a beautiful sunny morning with around 20 knots of wind as Nathan made the wake-up call at 0700 this morning. Shortly after this we made our way to the dining room for breakfast which was followed by a couple more important briefings to attend regarding Zodiac operations, the small boats and about Polar bears and how to behave if we were to find them on land. Overnight the Ortelius had sailed from Isfjorden around Prins Karlsforland to the entrance of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden. Our location now is a small bay in Krossfjorden named after the French 14th Juli Bastille Day. A glacier which bears the same name ends in this bay.

We arrived at the anchorage position just as the briefings finished and, before too long Group 1 was ready at the gangway to be taken ashore followed by Group 2, who were heading out on a Zodiac cruise in the fjord.

On shore the staff had already spent some time scouting the area to ensure it was safe and then positioned themselves at either end of the narrow coastal strip to allow free roaming in the vicinity. The coastal strip is backed by a steep slope and cliffs, which are a summer breeding site for a large Kittiwake colony as well as smaller colonies of Brünnichs guillemots, Puffins and Glaucous gulls. We could hear the Kittiwakes with their distinctive call and there were flocks of juvenile birds on the water close to the shore. This type of location is always a good site for Arctic foxes, who make the most of the summer bonanza of eggs and chicks on the cliffs and some people were lucky enough to see an adult and some cubs along the coast. What a great start!

On the water it was a little windy and splashy but the staff and crew did a great job of getting the boats close to the shore to get some protection and allow for some really good views of Puffins on the smaller bird cliffs at the end of the beach. From here the Zodiacs travelled with the wind behind towards the glacier. Although the glacier itself is retreating the forward motion of the ice makes the glacier front calve ice into the bay and we passed by lots of ice including large blue pieces and some dark grey bergs which were filled with sediment from the mountains. It was great to sail amongst the ice and see the glacier front.

After 90 minutes or so the two groups swapped on the beach so everyone had the same experience of land and sea and although it was a little chilly at times you wouldn’t expect anything else here in the high Arctic at the end of the summer.
During lunch the ship repositioned to a former mining settlement Ny Ålesund in the Kongsfjord (Kings Bay). Although the mine is long since closed after a severe accident the mine owner, Kings Bay Company, still runs the village which is now the world’s northernmost research settlement. Many countries have research facilities here focusing on a variety of science fields like glaciology, ecology, environmental sciences just to name a few. Ny Ålesund is inhabited year round but most people only work here during the Arctic summer. We were given freedom to walk around the settlement, and times were arranged to meet Arjen for a walk out to the airship mast near to the settlement. This is left from Amundsen’s flight to the North Pole with the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile’s repetition of this flight with the Italia the next year. The Italia crash landed on the ice which led to the largest Arctic rescue operation to date, where Nobile was rescued first by an airplane and the rest of the crew was only later picked up by the Russian ice breaker Krassin. After the guided walk there was plenty of time to explore the settlement, visit the shop, post a postcard home from the world’s most northerly post office, explore the museum and enjoy the opportunity to walk in the safe area.

Once back on the Ortelius we had a short recap of the day in the ships bar where Ben talked about his experience living and working in Ny Ålesund and Iain showed some photos to support Arjen’s stories from the mast. Nathan gave an outline plan for tomorrow which will find us visiting locations in the Hinlopen Strait, while the Arctic weather allows!

Day 3: Alkefillet and Wahlbergøya

Alkefillet and Wahlbergøya
Date: 24.08.2016
Position: 79°35 ’ N / 018° 33’ E
Wind: SW 5
Air Temperature: +8

Our overnight passage was a little bumpy but we turned eastward and south into the sheltered Hinlopen Strait and by breakfast time Ortelius was positioned close to the spectacular Alkefillet bird cliffs. We boarded the zodiacs and set off to view this seabird city breeding colony. The cliffs are a textbook example of metamorphosed rock in the form of basalt, limestone and of marble and you could easily see the different layers in the rock face which had towers and spires like a gothic cathedral. The rich vegetation on the sloping ground nearby indicated the presence of birds and the subsequent nitrogen enrichment that takes place.

The first round of cruising with Group 2 took us below the nests of several species and we concentrated on the Brunnich’s guillemots. These are the star attractions of Alkefjellet and the breeding population is around 60,000 pairs at the height of the season. At this time of year, the cliffs are virtually empty as the birds finish their breeding cycle for the season and start to head south once more. Juveniles were seen in the water accompanied by parent birds - a lovely sight but let’s spare a thought for these young guillemots… A young chick barely three weeks’ old is encouraged out of the safety of the nest by its fathers’ call. Unable to fly and suffering an unavoidable fate dealt by gravity, the chick drops from a height which would terminate human life into a watery landing zone close to zero degrees and often choppy. It will then spend the next six weeks at sea drifting slowly into the north Atlantic being fed by its father before being able to fly itself. A fairly extreme rite of passage!

Glaucous gulls and foxes live nearby and they take whatever food they can from the massive numbers of seabirds breeding here. On the grassy slopes we were treated to our first Arctic fox of the day. With its summer fur, it explored in between mossy hummocks and across the dolerite screes, occasionally pausing to check out a recent addition from the cliffs above. Foxy, seemingly oblivious to our presence, took its time traversing the slope in front of a flotilla of boats filled with eager camera lenses - a magical encounter. As we cruised along the cliffs entering little channels and nosing up against the rock face we enjoyed the full spectacle of Alkefillet. Further along towards the end of the high cliffs we enjoyed the waterfall emerging from the glacier meltwater before making our way back to the ship to change groups at the gangway. Both groups enjoyed the same wonderful experience with the foxes still there and feeding on guillemot carcasses and young birds dropping from the cliffs and landing close to the boats. What a great morning!

Back on board we headed south and en-route we encountered Humpback and Fin whales quite near to the ship. They were clearly feeding and lunged to the surface with their mouth open to take small fish and krill. Flocks of Kittiwakes accompanied them to take advantage of the bonanza of food.

After lunch we arrived at our next destination of Whalbergoya where we hoped to go ashore and see the Walrus. Staff were on the bridge to scan the beach and were happy to report that the Walrus were home! Group 1 were ready at the gangway first as we are limited by law and can only approach them in a group of 50 people. We landed along the beach and set off to see the Walrus herd which favour the spit here for hauling out. They put on a great show for us especially in the water close to the shore where them came closer for a look them swam away then came back again. This male only group spend the summer in locations like this relaxing, play fighting and sometimes feeding in the shallow waters. The males can reach 1500kg in weight and their tusks can grow to 1m in length. We saw both young males of around 3 or 4 years of age as well as some mature bulls with scars and nodules on their necks as a result of fighting during the breeding season. In winter they return to the northern locations and stay near the ice edge until the next springtime when they join the females for mating rituals.

Following our two great adventures today Ortelius set a northerly course for the ice. Our next objective; the Polar pack ice and hopefully the Polar bear.

Before dinner we met in the Lounge for re-cap where Mick talked about the Brünnich’s guillemots we had seen during the day, Arjen told the story of the annual migration of the Arctic terns and Ali explained a little more about the Walrus and their interactions with Polar bears.

Day 4: In the Pack Ice

In the Pack Ice
Date: 25.08.2016
Position: 81° 26’ N / 021° 19’ E
Wind: NNW 6
Air Temperature: -1

This morning many of us were woken by the scraping sound of the ice against the hull of the ship. Around 0500 we hit the first ice. What an experience, if you actually got up at 5am or just at the wake-up call around 7am, we all were amazed by the sight of this endless white world.

After breakfast Arjen gave a lecture about Polar Bears, telling us all about the ‘King of the Arctic’ that we all hoped to see. After the lecture many of us went outside or to the bridge again trying to find one. Others made their way to reception, where Michael and Heidi had opened the Ortelius shop. The whole day we spent sailing around in the ice, searching for wildlife and enjoying this spectacular scenery. Several seals were found hauling out on the ice floes, both Ringed and Bearded seals. And every now and then a group of Harp Seals was seen swimming, usually on their backs, popping their heads out of the water to have a look at that strange thing that was approaching them… All this was a good sign for our chances to find Polar Bears. Their food was available… Our expedition team spent many hours on the bridge scanning the ice for bears and several of us joined them. But apparently the bears had taken the day off and were nowhere to be found. Maybe the wind made them lay down, hiding at the lee side of ice ridges, which makes them a lot more difficult to find.

After another splendid lunch Mick told us all about the problems of navigation at sea including the story of a simple clock maker who solved the biggest problem. Fortunately, we have officers on the bridge taking care of all that for us. After lunch the search continued and many of us went outside to enjoy the sights that not a lot of people get to experience, sailing a full day in the pack ice. Apart from the wind, the weather was really nice, even sunny every now and then. The temperature of -1.5ºC made us all dress up warmly when we headed out and the hot chocolate prepared by Heidi and Michael was much welcomed.

During recap Iain told us more about the formation of sea ice, a process we had seen earlier in the day as the water temperature was around -1ºC.Well after dinner, around 22:00 the captain parked the ship in the ice so he and his team could have a well-deserved rest. We all could look back at a really special day in the ice. Some of us celebrated this with a few drinks in the bar, while others headed to their cabins. Rumour goes that some of us never went to bed at all and stayed up all night to see the sun make its way through the north, just not setting at night….

Day 5: In the Pack Ice and Kvitøya

In the Pack Ice and Kvitøya
Date: 26.08.2016
Position: 80° 54’ N / 025° 35’ E
Wind: N 7
Air Temperature: -1

After spending the night in the ice the ships engines were restarted shortly before 4am and we then continued our hunt of the elusive polar bears. At 5:20 the first bear was spotted! An announcement was made that we were starting to make our way closer to the bear and the ship suddenly came alive with passengers in various states of readiness to go outside to get a good view of the bear. After around 20 minutes of repositioning the bear was close to the ship and initially very inquisitive! Sadly, it got frightened by something on the ship and moved away again. We had good views of the bear for the next 30 minutes and saw it leaping and swimming between floes - well worth getting up on such a cold morning for.

Shortly after breakfast there was another announcement from the bridge that we had another bear! It was seen curled up and sleeping behind a pressure ridge of ice and this time it was already much closer to the ship. It woke up and rolled around and after a stretch it started moving directly towards us. At one point it came so close that we couldn’t see it without peering over front of the bow. It was such a privilege to see a polar bear in its natural environment doing its own thing and it deciding to come and pay us a visit.
The experience left several people buzzing which is always great to see such enthusiasm for nature.

After the second encounter there was a short break before Ali gave a lecture on “Ice Maidens” which was showing the often overlooked parts women played in polar exploration. She talked about the Inuit communities and then told stories of women who had come to Svalbard to work as trappers in the early 20th Century.

We left the pack ice in the late morning and the headed directly to Kvitøya, our planned late afternoon landing. The weather wasn´t particularly favorable and poor visibility meant we didn’t see much (although several sightings of narwal were reported, although they remained unconfirmed). John put on the BBC series “The Hunt” for a bit of entertainment and education on how polar animals hunt in such difficult conditions. There was some amazing footage of a Polar bear hunting a Bearded seal on the ice.

There was time for tea and some time out on deck before Iain invited us back down to the Lecture Room for his presentation about the Swedish expedition led by Salomen August André that perished on the eastern island of Kvitøya. This prepared us for our arrival at our next destination at the remote ‘White Island’.

Weather conditions were not co-operating however and we found ourselves in 35knots of wind as we arrived at the anchorage position near Andréeneset. The crew and staff prepared to go ashore for a scout but with strong winds and snow it wasn’t looking too promising and in the end the Captain and Nathan decided that it was too dangerous to continue and so the landing was cancelled. Many people were a little relieved and made their way to the bar for a Polar bear celebratory drink.

Day 6: Brasvellbreen and Kapp Lee, Edgeøya

Brasvellbreen and Kapp Lee, Edgeøya
Date: 27.08.2016
Position: 78° 30’ N / 022° 37’ E
Wind: NW 7
Air Temperature: +3

Saturday began with an early morning ships cruise along Bråsvellbreen past the ice cliffs to take in one of the largest icecaps in the northern hemisphere. Grand though this was, conditions weren’t ideal for a zodiac cruise so it was full steam ahead for Ortelius to Freemansund and an afternoon landing at Dolerittneset which lies just south of Kapp Lee. The name Dolerittneset refers to the doleritic peninsula which cuts westward into the sea but evidence of the volcanic intrusions through the layered sedimentary sandstone can also be seen on the slopes above. This peninsula allowed us to gain some shelter from the swell and land on its north side on a sandy walrus free beach.

We headed south along the shore past 18th century Pomor ruins, the stone built remains of which have stood the test of time more than any whaling infrastructure. The Pomors were hunters who came over from Russia's northern lands and typically used bricks to construct ovens and it is possible they were the first people to see and land on Svalbard prior to its ‘official’ discovery by Barentsz. The human impact on Dolerittsnet soon gave way to marshy moss banks of almost unnatural vibrance. Meandering through we saw evidence of some of the areas current residents in the form of deer and bear scat.

The rewards of gaining altitude were immediate with fantastic views back over the bay and out to Ortelius offshore. The cloud was beginning to show signs of weakness and had lost its leaden appearance to the west, morale was high! We ascended to a low point on the ridge leaving behind the verdant lower slopes and crossing stratified, scree slopes. Layers of shattered slate supported the sandstone and occasional fossils were spotted as we rose to grander vistas.

We peaked at around 300m with the sun adding contrast to stacked lenticular clouds over Spitsbergen to the west and turning the sea gold - a wonderful sight to savour and a personal highlight from this voyage. After a close encounter with a remarkably tame reindeer we headed downwards to explore the coast and see close hand the sombre collection of innumerable walrus bones. Many were slaughtered here to sate mankind's desire for walrus blubber and ivory until walrus hunting was banned in Svalbard in 1952.

The other groups took their time to explore the lower slopes of the area with a walk along the tundra, passing the Pomor remains and heading out as far as the small cliffs along the coast. There was time to visit the Walrus that were hauled out on the beach near the huts before heading back to the landing beach and back to the ship.

A timely and magical landing after some poor weather and the disappointment of not getting ashore at Kvitøya created a buzz amongst the ships compliment and for those fortunate enough to be up in the late evening we were treated to feeding whales against the burning orange horizon of the first Svalbard sunset since April.

Day 7: Hornsund

Date: 28.08.2016
Position: 77° 00’ N / 016° 15’ E
Wind: NW 8
Air Temperature: +7

Overnight, Ortelius had beaten into a 40 knot gale and a lumpy sea. Consequently, we were slightly behind schedule, and the restaurant was unusually quiet at breakfast with many deciding to stay in their cabins. Those that went up to the bridge had a great view of the angry sea, as we ploughed into the foaming crests which occasionally exploded, cascading the foredeck with spray.

At 1030, the ship’s motion steadied when Captain Appel changed course towards the entrance of Hornsund. With the wind now following, but still 35, gusting 40 knots, the dramatic mountains and the glaciers tumbling down between them came into view. Unfortunately, Hornsundtind, the 3rd highest peak in the archipelago at 1431m was swathed in cloud as it usually is! However, reaching only 475 meters the impressively steep Bautern, also called the Monolith, was clear of cloud and dominated the far end of Hornsund.

As we passed the entrance to Burgarbukta, Plancius could be seen at the far end close to the glaciers where it had taken shelter in the lee of the surrounding mountains. It appeared as though the zodiacs had been launched and that gave us cause for optimism. Although we had hoped that the strait would afford protection from the wind, at the junction of Hornsund and Brepollen, the foam-streaked surface bore witness to the fact the wind was still well beyond the limits of any kind of zodiac operation. At 1130, Michael, called an early lunch, while Ortelius slowly cruised the fjord looking for quieter conditions. Despite the very fresh conditions on deck, many of us took the opportunity of photographing the glorious glaciated scenery that has been rated among the most beautiful that Svalbard has to offer.

At around 1500, the Captain found a relative quiet position on close to the side of Svalsbreen, and, together with, they made the decision to launch the zodiacs for a cruise along the nearby glacier front. As usual, we were divided into two groups, with the second one going out when the first group returned. It was an interesting experience getting close to these highly crevassed ‘rivers of ice’ that broke into seracs as the glaciers ground their way down over ridges of rock. All of these ice fields are retreating and we could see clear evidence of this at the foot of the glaciers.

When close to the ice front, we were buffeted by regular katabatic gusts that are caused by cold dense air flowing down the glaciers. These whipped up the surface of the fjord into fast moving little whirl winds or ‘williewaws’.

We returned wet and chilled to the warmth and comfort of Ortelius while contemplating what it must have been like for those early explorers in places like this when they encountered inclement weather.

During the recap, Ian showed some fascinating film clips taken inside glaciers, Ali gave a presentation on Arctic poo and how to identify what mammal or bird it came from, and Mick extolled the use of feathers.
At 1900, Michael invited us to the restaurant for his great Arctic BBQ (inside!) – an extravaganza of wonderful food cooked to perfection. There was a real buzz in the bar afterwards as everyone told tales of exciting their zodiac or White water rafting expedition in Hornsund!

Day 8: Ahlstrandodden and Recherchebreen

Ahlstrandodden and Recherchebreen
Date: 29.08.2016
Position: 77° 33’ N / 015° 03’ E
Wind: NW 5 6
Air Temperature: +5

What a morning! After a sleepless night of rolling and tumbling between the bedsheets we were woken up by the voice of our Expedition leader Nathan to call us for breakfast. It became clear that the rough night was caused by a fierce storm with gusts of wind Force 10, yet another moment we could thank the skillful Captain and crew that kept us safe. But the day had only just started, and in what a way: The plan was to make a landing an Ahlstrandodden, a small bay with several large rocks and cliffs that provide a nice climb for the hardened explorer. Easier said than done, the wind was not as strong as the night before, but it sure wasn’t gone! The reminding note “keep your cameras safe and dry during the ride” was again in order. Plenty of white crests flew into the zodiacs, showering upon those inside as the drivers heroically kept course through the waves and wind, onto the beach!

On the beach lay several rowing boats that were left there by whalers in the early 1900’s, silent remnants of Spitsbergen’s exciting history. On the far side of the bay we could visit an old trappers hut, the weathered material of the hut gave it a rough and wild appearance…it must have been tough living in those days. The entire bay was secured by the expedition guides, so we could freely roam around. For those seeking a bit more of a sturdy walk could join Ali towards Bamsebu hut that is famous for its piles of beluga bones. The walk took the group around the coastline and with weather conditions clearing a little the views up to the peaks were beautiful with a covering of fresh snow. On the way back towards the landing beach they were lucky enough to spot an Arctic fox running across the tundra in search of food. The cold air steadily chilled our body temperatures as we explored Ahlstrandodden for 3 hours. Time to head back to the zodiac’s, lunch is ready on Ortelius and that we wouldn’t want to miss out on.

After lunch, Ortelius set course towards Recherchebreen in the lower part of Bellsund. A beautiful scenic view past by as we entered the fjord entrance: showers of hail in the distance made the mountains in the background fade away, while rays of sun lit up other parts of the fjord. A thin layer of fresh snow covered the peaks of the green mountains, a sign that winter is approaching. A polar bear was spotted on the far side of the fjord, luckily for us it was asleep and far away so we could still land at our side safe side of the water. While boating towards the landing site we could see a seal popping up, and later on during the hike even a solitary walrus, plenty of wildlife around! Onshore, 3 groups were created that each went out on another hike with different pace. A great way to spend the afternoon and to get rid of the after lunch dip. Each group got good views of reindeer and were able to visit the large leaning hut at the end of the beach.

This hut was built in 1904 by the Norwegian consul Johannes Gjaever who was hoping to encourage tourism hunting for reindeer. The project never really got started and he sold it to the Northern Exploration Company, who were searching the area for minerals and in doing so left the mine carts on the beach near the hut.

When entering the zodiacs for the way back the expedition staff had a nice surprise: we were going to pay that sleeping bear a visit! (while remaining in the zodiac that is…) We headed towards the other side of the fjord by zodiac and upon arrival we could see the bear walking over the slope towards the Recherchebreen, it had woken up from its nap so it seemed. Nevertheless, it was great to see the animal walking along the shoreline.

Time flies when you’re having fun, that’s why Michael the hotel manager had some household announcements to make during the evening recap before dinner. Arjen followed with an entertaining recap about the “fat size” of polar bears and John took us into the clouds with his talk about the different forms of arctic cloud formations. The call for dinner brought us all back to earth. Later that evening the bar was open and Orlando made some of the best cocktails available in the Arctic, a great way to close an eventful day, luckily we still have a few ahead!

Day 9: St Jonsfjorden and Alkhornet

St Jonsfjorden and Alkhornet
Date: 30.08.2016
Position: 78° 22’ N / 012° 30’ E
Wind: NE 3
Air Temperature: +6

As we drew back our curtains and emerged from our cabins we were greeted with the sight that we had been hoping for over the last few days – blue sky and sunshine! The views as we entered the fjord were spectacular with fresh snow on the tops of the mountains and sparkling water ahead of us. What a perfect day for our last one here in Svalbard. Nathan made the wake-up call and after a quick breakfast we were soon ready at the gangway so head ashore and see what the staff had lined up for us this morning.
Once everyone was on shore we split up into the usual groups and Ali led the long hikers with Peter up to the tundra while Ben and Mick headed up the small valley near the moraines. The target for each group was to get some elevation and look down into the narrow fjord beyond the moraines for views of the glacier at the end of the bay.

The long hikers encountered a trio of reindeer on the way up, one of which had bleeding antlers as it shed its antler velvet at the end of the summer season. It looked very painful. From here they headed up to the ridgeline and the views down onto the glacier below opened up brilliantly and it was a wonderful place to sit for a while and enjoy some Arctic silence. These quiet moments are very rare in our busy lives and should be cherished and brought out when we’re back at work and surrounded by noise and chaos.
The medium group were down below on the moraines and enjoying a similar experience and both groups would have been very happy to sit for longer but there was the matter of a ‘Polar Plunge’ to attend to so both groups made their way back to sea level via the small but lovely little trappers hut at the end of the beach.
Once back along at the landing site the brave swimmers took the plunge into the water which had been recorded on the Bridge as being 5 °C. Definitely chilly and silly but those who did brave the water certainly seemed to enjoy it!
Once back on board and warmed up it was time to settle our on board accounts with Michael and Heidi. All those drinks and the on board retail therapy had to be paid for at some point and this was the time to do so. Lunch was served at 1200 and then there was time to enjoy the scenery during our navigation around to our final landing spot on this trip at Alkhornet.

We had heard from our sister ship, Plancius that a polar bear had interrupted their landing in this location yesterday evening so the staff spent some time scouting the area from the ship as well as on the shore. Once they were happy that the area was safe we were able to start going ashore. Alkhornet is an area famous for steep cliffs and pointed ‘horn’ peak and it was at the base of this where we hoped to make our morning landing. The Expedition staff had arranged a different type of landing for us and were positioned in a perimeter formation so that we had a safe area in which to free roam and take photographs. They had found some Reindeer feeding on the grassy tundra and positioned themselves so that we could get good views of the animals as they grazed on the lush vegetation. One of the males had blood covered antlers where the velvet had been scraped off during sparring contests with other male reindeer. This is the beginning of the ‘rut’ where males will fight for dominance over females. Despite this they were very relaxed and we were able to get very close to them as they grazed their way towards us. We found some young fawns higher on the slopes which were very cute to watch!

On the lower slopes a female Arctic fox had been seen travelling around the area and she came close by to a number of passengers as she hunted for food on the tundra. The constant call of the kittiwakes was a contrast to the calm conditions of the sea. It was nice to be able to free roam and with the area being so rich in vegetation there was plenty of species of flowers to take photographs of; Bog saxifrage, Snow buttercup and Arctic mouse-ear chickweed.

Back on board it was time to return the rubber boots and lifejackets and get ready for our final re-cap, which included Captain’s Cocktails and a chance to toast our voyage and look back on the wonderful adventure here on Spitsbergen with the aid of a slide show prepared by the Expedition team. This was followed by our Farewell Dinner and plenty of chat in the bar! What a wonderful Arctic Adventure!

Day 10: Disembarkation in Longyearbyen

Disembarkation in Longyearbyen
Date: 31.08.2016

It was now time to say farewell to our great adventure, to our safe floating home and to our lovely new friends! We went down the gangway at about 0900 to step ashore. It was a dry landing! A bus took us to town so that we could do a bit of visit, shopping and mailing from one of the northern most settlements, before heading to the airport.

Total distance sailed on this voyage: 1331 Nautical Miles

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


Tripcode: OTL14-16
Dates: 22 Aug – 31 Aug, 2016
Duration: 9 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Longyearbyen
Disembark: Longyearbyen

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