Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Best Landing So Far This Summer!

We have now been to Ny-Ålesund five times this summer.  Each time we come there are one or two Ivory Gulls on the beach close to the ship. Ivory Gulls are one of the most beautiful gulls in the world. As the name indicates they are ivory white. these beautiful birds are often found near feeding Polar Bears, waiting for there turn at the carcass.  The sky was still overcast but there were distinct patches of blue breaking through.  A definite  change in the weather was coming.

By 10:45 we had all been on a guided tour of the town.  Most of us had also walked out to the mast where Roald Amundsen and Umberto Nobile had tethered their Zeppelins in 1926 and 1928 in their quest to reach the North Pole by air.  Once everyone was back on board Fram, we did some slow scenic cruising around the fjord.  It was a gorgeous morning. The railings on deck 5 were crowded with happy people photographing and admiring the beautiful glaciers in Kongsfjorden.   
At 14:30 we dropped the anchor at our next destination: Fjortende Julibukta.  After a short Polar Cirkel boat ride to shore, we could hear hundreds of Black-legged Kittiwakes calling.  We had landed at the base of an amazing sea bird colony.  Looking up we could see hundreds of Kittiwakes wheeling above their nests.  Nesting in the cliffs were also Brunnich’s Mures, Common Mures and Atlantic Puffins. Glaucous Gulls, Great Skuas, Long-tailed Skuas and Arctic Skuas soared around the cliffs looking for a chance to steal a chick.
The weather continued to improve.  The sun burst through the clouds lighting up the mountains and glaciers in the background.  It was the most beautiful evening we had experienced all summer in Spitsbergen.  At the landing site, most people walked down the boulder strewn beach towards the glacier front.  Lots of loud cracking and booming erupted from the glacier as large chunks of ice calved off.  This created moments of anxiety for the Expedition Team as they made sure their wards on the beach were safe from tsunamis, however the waves really never got high enough to be much of a threat.
Seven Svalbard Reindeer were seen high up the slopes just below the bird cliffs.
It was a spectacular landing site and a beautiful evening.  It was hard to leave the beach to go back to the ship but by 20:00 everyone was back on board.