Wednesday, 23 June 2010

BBQ in Skansbukta

Is it really the last day already? Most of us are flying out in the early morning of the 23rd, so lets use the time: Bridge visits with Captain Hansen in the morning, lectures by Camille, Martin and Ralf about photography, history and glaciers, beautiful scenery, writing the last postcards... I tell you- this is quite busy.

Our last landing today was at Skansbukta, named after the nearby mountain Skansen. For people interested in geology- that is an amazing place regarding color of the stone and the steep cliffs! In the layers one has found anhydrite, a mineral that is chemically identical with gypsum (Calcium sufate). It has been mined at a few places, including Skansbukta. Mining started in 1918 but closed down relatively quickly again. What can be seen today are remainings of the mining town including the mine entrance as well as a short railway line.
Walking around you stepped on tundra with a comparably rich vegetation. A few sea bird colonies are in the area as well including Kittiwakes and a few Puffins

Many passengers have asked me how Svalbard compares to Greenland or Antarctica! And you will not like the answer- you can not compare it at all, but you have to see it! I have been here on a holiday trip and have been working in Greenland now 10 years and in Antarctica for around 6 years as Expedition Leader. And no, you can really not say what is nicer!
Antarctica- one needs to see it! The scenery, the Drake Passage, the wild life, the penguins, the weather changes, icebergs en mass and glaciers coming down to the sea everywhere-it is hard to describe.
Greenland- that is more or less home for me. I love the people, the interaction, the nature., the remote settlements and the icebergs. But if you want to see wildlife, it is maybe not the prime place to go to due to the hunting culture. But if you want to experience nature and culture – you will love it!
And now to Svalbard: It is an amazing place for scenery and wildlife. If you want to see a polar bear- it is definately THE place to see! I found myself constantly watching through my binoculars- and doing a happy dance if there was a Polar bear or a whale or a walrus or....
So you get by now what I want to tell you: it is all not comparable- but that you have to come and see it yourself!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Krossfjord/ Kongsfjord and Ny-Alesund

June 21- the longest day of the year! And by now most passengers are really tired- because you just can not get yourself into bed! The sun is up all night long, it has a soft, yellowish light reflecting over the sea, great mirror images of the mountains can be seen in the calm water. We have been extremely blessed on this trip with the weather!

Krossfjord is approx. 30km long and 5km wide and shares its entrance with Kongsfjord. The entire area is situated in the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. The name derives from „Cross bay“due to a wooden cross that was erected by the English whaler Jonas Poole in 1610. The land here rises steeply from the fjords. We used our good weather fortune to launch the Polar Cirkle boats in Kongsfjord and cruise along the glacier front at the head of the fjord.

Ny-Ålesund was named after the Norwegian town Ålesund, where the company that founded the mine was based. Coal mining stopped here in the 1960s and since then it has developed into an international research village. The settlement is without a doubt one of the most important sites in the history of the North Pole exploration! It was from Ny-Ålesund that Amundsen and Umberto Nobile started to fly towards the North Pole in the air ship NORGE in 1926. They were the first once to do so! Amundsen, having already been the first man to the South Pole, received most of the media attention. The dispute was also if the fame should go to Norway or Italy where Nobile was from. The result was an all- Italian expedition and in 1928 Umberto Nobile took his airship ITALIA to cross the North Pole again. The airship crashed on the ice after a successful crossing on the way back. Amundsen also took part in the rescue operation but his plane vanished with him. One has to imagine Nobile- after being rescued, the world saw him more or less as the „man who killed Amundsen“- not an easy weight one ones shoulder...
We could roam within the city limits freely and could follow the road around the settlement. Most ended up sooner or later in the souvenir shop and of course in the post office. The „main square“ is marked with the Amundsen monument.

You just can not go to sleep! After this expedition everyone needs a week of rest, I assume!! Today it was not only the good weather that prevented us from a good nights sleep- but also the fantastic and fun crew show on board MV Fram!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Magdalenafjorden "Gravneset" and Moffen

Magdalenafjord cuts straigth into the coast- it is often referred to as one of the most beautiful fjords in Svalbard. Going in you see the Gullyglaciar on starboard side and the Waggonwayglaciar right at the head of the fjord. And in this approximately 10km long fjord is our landing site for the day: Gravneset. It provides a natural harbor easily accessible for our small boats – and a beautiful sand beach for our brave (or should be call them crazy??) swimmers.

Remainings of the times of the whalers can be seen everywhere and therefore it is so interesting: English whalers established a whaling station until around 1623. Visible today are the remainings of the blubber ovens as well as the graveyard. Whaling in the 17th century meant good money- but many also paid with their lifes. Imagine being a whaler, coming to Svalbard in the summer time: the e.g. English winter has been long and hard, there were not too many fruit and vegetable available. Then you start your working season up in the High North already with a lack of vitamins so not only accidents during whaling itself but also scurvy took their tools. Here at Gravneset you find around 130 graves and it is one of the largest graveyards of that time in Svalbard. Freezing and thawing in the arctic areas also means that the coffins are pushed back to the surface.
In the early evening we reached Moffen. This tiny island was well known by the whalers already from the 17th century onwards due to the abundance of walrus- but they also buried their own dead on the island. In our days, Moffen is a well-visited place and the vessel has to keep a distance of 300m in order not to disturb the animals. Walrus are interesting creatures: a newly born Walrus is already 1.3m long and weights up to 85kg! Their color is usually brown but it varies- and you can see it clearly at the beach: Today it is rather warmish so the once that have spent some hours ashore, seem to have a more pinkish shade due to an increased blood circulation. They are also very social animals and often stay in groups.

We cruised into beautiful Raudfjord and there he was again- a polar bear in some distance on the ice! The day ended with the handing out of certificates for crossing the 80North today- and a few extra certificates for the brave swimmers! Our Captain Arnvid Hansen clearly enjoyed this as much as the passengers....

It has been a great day: beautiful passages, walruses and a polar bear!

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Our photographer Camille Seaman had to be very patient today- right when starting her lecture there was a call from the bridge: „Polar bear ahead“! Everyone is outside- but now the Polar bear seems to be hiding! After a few moments he appears again- looking curiously for a moment towards the ship but then going on with his business in stealing eggs and just ignoring our presence! What a sight here in Bellsund! Once we had enough time photographing, MV Fram goes on and Stine and Gro have finally time to introduce us to their world of the birds.

Today’s landing site was situated in the area of Van Keulenfjord. Our landing beach is called „Kvitfiskstranda“- the „White whale beach“. Whale bones, put into piles along the beach, are a clear sign of the former whaling activity. A hut called Bamsebu is now privately owned but still reminds of how life was for the whalers and trappers. Long nails, with the sharp end facing outwards, are proof that you always should think about polar bears! Today we are guided around in groups which give a great insight of the whaling history. We pass by the bleached Beluga bones at the beach and have a nice stroll towards the old wooden rowing boats that are still lying at the beach. It is a calm afternoon, reindeer are moving in the area, there are many eider ducks and the little auks seem to have found a home in the mountains.

There is a lot to take in during a day! And in the evening, the galley guys show what to make out of melons, pineapple- and ice! Those carvings always look so easy to do- until you try it at home!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Bjørnøya- the Bear Island

A question for you: Is Bjørnøya in Svalbard or Spitsbergen? The use of names is always a bit confusing. In 1194, the Vikings came to a place they called „the cold edge“- or Svalbard in their language. The official name distinction is: Spitsbergen is the main island- while Svalbard is the name for the entire archipelago- including Bjørnøya!

The origin of the name Bjørnøya itself is also quite interesting! In 1596, Willem Barents reached the island and his men killed a polar bear- hence the naming Bjørnøya, the Bear Island.Bjørnøya is a place rarely visited due to it`s remoteness- most tourists in our days fly to Longyearbyen and only a few arrive by vessel and maybe then pass by the island.  Bjørnøya has the reputation of often begin a bit foggy- but what a day today! Calm weather, sun, beautiful reflections! We were able to do both a cruising in front of the magnificent bird cliffs as well as a landing. Being in a Polar Cirkle boat in front of a 400m high bird cliff with thousands of birds above you truly gives you a perspective of one’s own „importance“. Suddenly you feel very small and just in awe with nature! Keep in mind that Bjørnøya is the only piece of land within a long range so many sea birds come here for nesting- or resting. The most abundant species are the Brünich`s guillemot and the Common guillemot, but in the cliffs one also sees Kittiwakes (ca 100.000 breeding pairs), Fulmars, a few Glaucous gulls and Little auk colonies. So our time in the Polar Cirkle boats was just flying by! As the weather was extremely calm, our expedition leader Karin Strand decided to also go ashore- a really rare occasion! The walk up to a cliff offered fantastic views into the bay and „our“ MV Fram.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Hornsund: flowers, Belugas and a Polar Bear- June 17

Glacier front, high mountain tops, Belugas in the fjord swimming among the ice and a polar bear waiting patiently for a catch at a hole- enough hints about our day?

The scenery alone is impressive enough in Spitsbergen’s southernmost fjord- eight large glaciers are calving into the Sund while in the background you see Hornsundtind, the third- highest mountain of Svalbard. We landed at Gnålodden- a nice place and good for a short walk. There is a large sea bird colony, and due to the rich fertilization you find some moss and lots of saxifraga. Trappers have been in the area for a long time due to the earlier hunting of polar bears and the hut you can see was in use until 1971.

Bears and foxes.... Today, we did not see a trapper hunting in Burgerbukta, but a polar bear! And we did see a pot of Belugas (White Whales) swimming in the brush ice! The Beluga belongs to the toothed-whales and is up to 1.500kg heavy. The name is a bit misleading as they only turn to a creamy color at the age of approximately 7 years while the younger once have a rather grayish color. And one tip: if you ever come on board, bring your binoculars!

Now we are on the way to Bjørnøya- time for lectures, information briefings and the curious feeling what tomorrow will bring!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Welcome to Longyearbyen- June 16, 2010

Most passengers arrived today rather early with a direct charter flight from Germany. And even though it meant not much sleep along the way- it was so much worth it! Imagine flying over Svalbard at 1am- you can see the mountain tops, all is snow covered, the light is very soft and the clouds prevent the view into the fjords. And suddenly you are there- Longyearbyen appears in the Midnight sun.

During the day we had a chance to learn more about this small, but very active community! Longyearbyen- the unofficial capital of Svalbard- offers an interesting local history as traces from mining are visible at many places. In the late afternoon we boarded MV Fram but the day was not over! Barentsburg, situated in Groenfjord, the „green harbor“ was our destination for the evening where we went to pier. The mining town is somehow very different from what you were expecting- the most heard comment in the beginning of the landing was that it really needs a clean-up. There is still mining going on with Russian and Ukrainian workers. And one finds a small school for 11 children. But when you have talked to the locals, listened to the enthusiastic guiding and have been to the folkoreshow that was presented in the evening- only then you truly understand the beauty of Barentsburg.

It was a day full of impressions- but it is hard to go to bed! Let me tell you- the midnight sun is best around 2am- and that is something you do not want to miss. What you are going to miss is a daily report of this voyage- this is a true expedition without internet connection.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The "real" start of the season

7th and 8th of June

FRAM awaits her season start in Longyearbyen. While waiting for new supplies, FRAM gets ship shape for the summer season 2010.

9th of June - Longyearbyen/Barentsburg

With almost 200 newly arrived guests from all over the world we leave Longyearbyen at 18.00. The eternal midnight sun sets no constraints for our travelling along the sunlit Icefjord. We are heading towards the Russian coal-mining settlement Barentsburg. For the Russian dance ensemble from Barentsburg the beginning of the season brings a closure to the winter-long preparations resulting in their excellent rendering of a joyful mixture of old and new traditional songs and dances. We thoroughly enjoy this gem of arctic artistic splendor, before we head south to the southern part of Spitsbergen.

10th of June Hornsund - Gnålodden

The old 'English' whaling fjord Hornsund with its eight long-stretched glaciers awaits us with "Kaiserwetter" [emperor's weather] as some of the German passengers on board spontaneously remark. Our landing site this morning, Gnålodden, unveils the majestic and monolithic 'Gnålberget' which constitutes the outermost spur of the long-stretched mountain ridge 'Sofiekammen'. This spectacular view strikes a chord in us that reminds us of the the 'sublime feel' of the grandeur of nature. It needs no mentioning: the abundance of colours and contrasts on this day is beyond words. Directly from sea level, we can marvel at this bird cliff which would be unheard of when traveling in the Alps or other scenic parts of the world.

After having cruised in 'Burgerbukta' we explored 'Brepollen' where the ever-receding glaciers invited for closer scrutiny of this majestic fjord. This day stays in our memory for a long time due to the extraordinary arctic sunlight on this day which is so utterly special for this region of the world.

11th of June Bjørnøya

During the night we have continued further south and left the southernmost headland of Spitsbergen to sail for Bjørnøya. The island where the fog reigns shows mercy on us. Slightly overcast but with good visibility we approach the southern corner of this forlorn island in the early hours of the day and start our tendering along these impressive sedimentary rocks. Their existence hints at the old sea beds that they once served as in prehistoric times. Only a minor swell is left and puts no noteworthy strain on our tender-operations. Thousands of Kittiwakes and Guillemots have started their breeding season and invite us into their universe. At a safe distance we can closely follow their 'to and fro' on the rocky ledges. Some of them point their black plumage towards us probably waiting for some of these scarce arctic sunrays in order to warm their elegant bodies.

Filled with marvelous impressions from this usually wind-torn and mist-covered island between Norway and Spitsbergen we head back in northerly direction.....This time heading for the ice-covered Bellsund in the southern part of this Arctic Archipelago with its secretive ancient Nordic name: "Svalbard".

Saturday12th of June Bellsund

Another day of peak experience has passed in one of Mother Nature’s most northerly cradle on earth. This time we sail for the Bellsund situated at the southern part of Spitsbergen. This day, indeed, is a blessing and one could think of the Danish Poet Piet Hein’s saying: “Living is a thing you do either now or never which do you? And living we did: with our two lungs breathing the cold arctic air in this magnificent labyrinth of fjords which finally brought forth our landing destination ‘Ahlstrandhalvøya’ in the van Keulenfjord. The majestic ice and snow covered mountain ridge of the adjacent ‘Berzeliustinden’ made us feel humble when walking over its low lying and long-stretched plains. They consisted of soft exposed sedimentary layers hinting at the existence of a prehistoric sea-bottom that had risen above the surface due to the age-old melting of Svalbard’s ice sheet. Few troops of barnacle geese set the scene as they fly at a distance between the glittering mountains and our bespoke travelers on this sunny day. Now and again an eerie sound from foraging ‘Common Eider’ at a distance breaks the silence and gives us a feel of ‘civilized’ comfort. At least we are not alone.

Alas, and alone we were not. Particularly due to this one capital polar bear who was trying to swim past the headland across which we had just commenced our stroll. Navigating through the maze of ice-floes he came ever nearer and curiously pointed his nose to us; probably realizing that many tele-lenses had targeted his until recently secretive swim. Following a short pause and somewhat startled he commenced his chosen path through the ice littered fjord continuing his solitary existence.

But not enough we would see a polar bear anew. However, this time showing us his ‘food chamber’ of slaughtered prey hidden carefully behind rocks along the icy coastline. While devouring his recent kill, our hardnosed friend measured our presence only from time to time. However, it was obvious we were dealing with a very confident fellow well aware of his position as the reigning king of this archipelago. It felt sad to say good bye to this spectacular scene. We wished him farewell and headed north ….this time on our way to the infamous northwestern corner of Spitsbergen excited to unveil yet another secret of the captivating past of this part of the world. Bear with us… is itching to tell more…..

13th June Magdalenafjord and Moffen

And off we go. In the polar circle boats we are leaving the FRAM behind us to our landing at Gravneset in the Magdalenefjord, the famous resting ground of whalers stretching from the 16th to the 18th century to the infamous whalehunting fjord Magdalenefjord. Puzzlingly, the FRAM appears tiny while it is tightly snuggled into a background of majestic and cathedral-like granite mountain ridges. The eeriness of this place haunts the visitor while learning more about the tragic background of many whalers perishing in these arctic waters. The old story goes that once a Greenland right whale was harpooned the crew in the boat could feel the whirling wind close to their ears. It was of such a breathtaking speed which the fleeing whale showed in his final endeavour to escape his hunters. This was ever so often associated with acute danger for capsize for the whalers in their small auxiliary vessels. The lecture on the Spitsbergen whaling history is captivating, however the erratic weather of Spitsbergen shows its face today and reminds us about the hardship for the earlier pioneers of Spitsbergen. Nevertheless, some of our hardened passengers are unimpressed and take the challenge by showing their elegant (at least some) swimming strokes in icy waters.

Finally towards the evening we reach ‘Moffen’, the tiny windtorn island sporting a walrus colony above 80 degrees northern latitude. From far beyond this area, we can sense the Northpole (600 sm away from us) somewhere out there in the white ‘nothingness’ of the eternal packice.

14th of June Krossfjorden/Ny-Ålesund
FRAM’s early start of the season, means that we still meet some of the inner areas of the fjords which are still icebound. We are flexible enough to change our landing site from the Lillehøkfjorden to the nearby Møllerfjorden and can enjoy a well-received stroll along the icy northerly coastline of this fjord leading us up to close vicinity to the glacierfront of the ‘Kolleerbreen’. Some of us even take the opportunity to follow the ‘sporty’ guides and climb up into the higher regions of the moraines that the receeding glacier had left behind. Some of the impeccably white looking ivory gulls seem to smile at us and wonder what we do up here. The sun lits up the scene and the contrasts of colours are crystal clear. A divine mighty force has made all this, one would think. We can only rest in deep contemplation about the grandeur of nature which meets unfiltered our eyes in this remote fjord.

Cruising the Krossfjorden and the Kongsfjorden we finally arrive at the most northern settlement in the world: Ny-Ålesund. Its reputation as an important research station is witnessed by many nation’s involvement into climate research.

15th June Isfjorden - Skansebukta
The ship arrives on the easterly side of Carls Prince Forland and puts its bow close to ‘Poolepynten’, one of the main destinations of walruss colonies in this archipelago. The thirst for knowledge is unabated also on this day. A cruise in this part of the world inevitably triggers our curiosity about arctic wildlife and the cultural history of the north. Undoubtedly, Norwegian polar history is one important pillar. Today it is abundant opportunity for lectures on various fields spanning from Svalbard’s reindeers year life cyclus to the historical FRAM expedition (1893-1896) led by Fridtjof Nansen. What a miracle that this vessel successfully drifted through the treacherous ice which - as a result- had put Norway on the world map as a leading polar nation.

We continue our journey through the Iceford and for a short while stop by at Pyramiden and come finally to our final anchorage at ‘Skansebukta’: the old gypsum mining place of the early 20th century. Here we enjoy our final landingsite, the prehistoric uplifted seabed on which we stroll around, the surrounding glittering mountains lit by the midnight let us marvel at the sublime wonder of this majestic place.

Sadly this journey comes to an end. There is a certain melancholy amongst us feeling the pending departure and leaving this sublime nature that has made us so very humble and appreciative for Mother Nature. We bid farewell to our newly made friends. Maybe it is the start of a yearning that will bring back some of us one day drawn by the secretive and inexplicable call of the North.

Monday, 7 June 2010

ISFJORDEN - and farewell

Sunday 6th of June

Today we sailed in Isfjorden, and this was a good name for this fjord today, because in the beginning we met a lot of drifting ice. There were six lectures before lunch all together, and while Marta was talking about coal production in Svalbard, we actually passed the Russian settlement, Barentsburg and saw the black smoke from the coal power station there.

After lunch captain Rune Andreassen and his crew invited for a farewell coctail in Panorama Lounge, deck 7.

The cottage in Skansebukta. And some purple saxifragas. Photo: Ian Lawson

In the afternoon we landed in Skansebukta. And finally, we could have a bath. Yes, in the fjord. And again, the Chinese were the toughest of us. Afterwards we had a nice Barbeque dinner on deck 7.

We arrived Longyearbyen in the middle of the night – and all the Chinese left the boat for an early plain. And it felt empty.

This voyage, as everything – has to come to an end. It has been a beautiful and fantastic voyage. Me, the blogger would like to thank you, both my new friends at Hurtigruten and all the passengers and all others who made Fram’s first trip to Spitsbergen possible.  

PS: Monday some of the remaining passengers went to the University of Svalbard (UNIS) and got a lecture there. They also had a guided tour in Longyearbyen.  


SATURDAY 5th of June

We woke up and had our breakfast in Raudfjorden this morning. All landscape was covered by snow and also a lot of fast ice in the fjord. It was not possible to do a landing, but suddenly everybody forgot about that, because the captain was on the loud speaker:
POLAR BEARS! Finally. Three of them, or were there four, or five? Somebody said six, so – well, they were far away, more like small yellow walking spots on the white ice.
– That was the animal I wanted to see the most, so this was really funny, said Olevarius Frostad Udsby who thought the bears looked quite big in his binocular. Olevarius is the youngest tourist on this voyage, ten years old. He is taking a lot of pictures every day and also making this little film he is going to show his friends at school when he returns.

After a while we left the bears to go even further north, to 80 degrees. We went to see Moffen, this little island north of Spitsbergen – and there we could see several groups of walruses on the shore, swimming and playing and breathing in the water, over 100 all together.
After a while we got a visitor on the vessel, king Neptun. He baptised the toughest of us, well, the Chinese, with ice cubes. In the afternoon we did a landing and climbed a little mountain at Ytre Norskeøya. Then we sailed south, and reached the most beautiful fjord in the world, Magdalenefjorden around midnight.

Puh, what a day! We have to learn you a Norwegian word: Ojojoj!
At the top of Ytre Norskøya, little Fram to the left. Photo: Ian Lawson


FRIDAY 4th of June

This Friday we spent in the northernmost permanent settlement in the world: Ny Ålesund. In the summer time around 150 people lives here, researchers from all over the world. China, Korea, India, Norway and six more nations have research stations here.
But we were not the first tourists in the town. Last summer they had about 30.000.
– This summer there will be even more tourists, said Roger Jakobsen. He is the director of Kings Bay which is running the logistics for the researchers in Ny Ålesund.
– We have to find a balance between tourism and research, he said. Too much tourism can damage the research.
– But it is also important that people can see what we are doing, he said, and then strictly instructed us to follow the rules:
– Stay on the roads, don’t touch anything, don’t throw anything – and turn off your bluetooth.

 The northernmost permanent settlement in the world, Ny Ålesund. Photo: Ian Lawson

Then we went to town in another beautiful day. We had a guided tour in town and also a tour outside town in the afternoon.

Next to us in the fjord we saw a whaling boat and a blue vessel with a rainbow on it. Greenpeace had just arrived town, helping some German scientists with equipment. The press group and some other of the passengers got a brief about the actual project, which was a cooperation between nine different countries, trying to find out more about pollution and CO2 storage in the oceans.

We left around eight o’ clock – to get a closer look on the glaciers in Kongsfjorden and the sun helped us with a beautiful light.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


The shining sun and around 15 walruses started this thursday in this Arctic Paradise. The walruses where at Poolepynten on Prins Karls Forland, on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Here we did a landing to take a closer look at these fascinating animals.
– To see this animal real is totally different than to see them in pictures. It was very exiting! But we were told to keep quiet, so I had to keep my feelings inside, said Yu Xue Yong. The photographer of today’s picture.  
Vivian Lee also liked the animals very much.
– It felt good, to give them a little space – and being quiet and protect them, she said.

 Our big, beautiful friends. Photo: Yu Xue Yong

This was another day with sun and fantastic high mountain peaks trying to crash the sky. After lunch we sailed into St. Johnsfjorden. To the very end. There were ice and ice and seals, we looked and looked, but no, we did not see this yellow, white, big thing. The fog came sneaking into the evening when the crew were holding their show in the Panorama Lounge.   

Ice, ice, ice and a sleeping walrus

WEDNESDAY 2nd of June
What a morning! We’ll let photographer Xavier Cervera from Barcelona, Spain tell from his cabin:
– My alarm was on 08.30, but I woke up 06.15 from a strange sound. It was a totally new sound for me, that I have never experienced before. And the vessel went very slowly. I went to the window, opened the curtains and waow – we were surrounded by ice, he told.
– What did you think?
– I felt like being on another planet. Where am I? Are we stuck? Must we stay here? I thought. I didn’t shower, I didn’t even take off my pyjamas, I just ran out and started taking pictures …

Photo: Camille Seaman
Xavier didn’t know the ice was going to surround us the hole day. We didn’t manage to get into Hornsund as planned , but went into Van Keulenfjorden further north instead. And there, we met the biggest animal so far, a really beautiful walrus relaxing on the ice.  We all ran out with our very long cameras, but he walrus didn’t really care. He continued his afternoon sleep, lifting his head once in a while.  And about thousand click later we left him, still with our cameras lifted, looking for other animals, some actually saw reindeers on the beach, some also saw seals, but no king of Arctic, yet.

Photo: Camille Seaman
The weather? Sun and no wind, the mountains were actually reflected in the water.  And the glaciers – crashing with the fjords, again and again and again. Also the really experienced people aboard were kind of amazed, making really happy noices on the deck. 

In the evening we found a nice landing site on the southern shore of Van Keulenfjorden.  We saw some whale bones from the hunting of white whales in the 1930s – and even flowers – this summer’s purple saxifraga. After that, the clock told us midnight, even though the sun was still shining. And shining and shining, till the clock told us it was a new morning again. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Today we reached Svalbard – and it’s southernmost island, Bjørnøya. And this was really the Big Bird Day. We have met one of the largest sea bird colonies in the North Atlantic actually. We arrived the southern tip of Bjørnøya in the middle of the day. Then we already had listened to about four lectures, and some also saw whales from the deck – so this is not quite a lazy holiday … 

Guillemots and kittiwakes. Photo: Ian Lawson

When we arrived Bjørnøya we went out in the small boats, watching the fantastic cliffs and birds. In sun, snow, wind and sun again.
Photo: Ian Lawson
Some of us learned a lot of new bird names today, but now we have to ask, Gro Vestues, our biologist and member of the Expedition Staff:
–  What have we actually seen today?
– During the breakfast we saw the fulmar, sailing past the windows, watching our coffee. When we got closer to Bjørnøya we saw the guillemots, a lots of them, and kittiwakes. And during the small boat cruise we saw all these birds pluss the glaucous gull nesting. In between we also saw some great skuas passing by, Gro said.
– And what was this day like for you, bird lover?
– It was really good to be back on Svalbard and see my old friends, she completed.

When we left Bjørnøya the snow and wind curtains closed down the view for a while  – perfect weather for even more education.