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!