Sunday, 4 September 2011

Eolusneset in Sorgfjorden & Torellneset

At 08:30 we started landing operations at Eolusneset in Sorgfjorden which is located in north east Spitsbergen near the entrance to Hinlopen Strait.
Pooling surface water due to permafrost at Eolusneset
There was a lovely gravel beach to land on with a long narrow lagoon just above the beach. Beyond that a huge flat area stretched for several kilometres.
Overlooking the landing site there was a cross on a small hill.  It was placed there in 1855 as a memorial to the fallen whalers in the famous sea battle between the French and the Dutch in 1693.
The terrain was extremely flat. In such a flat area there is little chance for the water to runoff nor can the water penetrate the permafrost.  Since the water has no place to go, it tends to collect and lie at the surface.  These wet areas did not pose a problem.  It was easy to walk around them.
In the distance we could see a herd of approximately twelve reindeer. It was getting close to rutting season so the reindeer were starting to gather in small herds.
Many people chose to walk around the entire perimeter set by the Expedition Team. At a leisurely pace it was accomplished easily in an hour’s time.
Hiking across the tundra at Eolusneset
We were all back on board the ship by noon.  We had about 50 nautical miles to cover before our next proposed landing at 18:00. While we enjoyed an afternoon of scenic cruising there was also the option of attending a couple of lectures.  
As we headed south down Hinlopen Strait the wind picked up imbuing a respectable chop to the previously calm seas. 
At 18:00 we dropped anchor off of Torellneset.  From the ship we could see that there were two large groups of Walrus hauled out on the beach.  Now that is exciting news!  It was still quite windy which meant for a very wet ride to a protected beach where the landing was then accomplished easily. 
Male walrus hauled out at Torellneset
 We walked about two hundred metres along the shoreline to where we had excellent views of the walruses.  What astonishing animals they are!  At one point two walrus that were in the water came really close to people standing by the water’s edge. The curious walrus sat in the water looking at the strange group of blue people on shore. They were at most five metres away! It was an experience that those who were lucky enough to be so close to those magnificent beasts will never forget.  I know, because I was one of them.
Now as we sail southward in Hinlopen strait it is 22:00 and it is getting dark.