Friday, 9 September 2011

Gravneset and Moffen Island

One needs a good sense of humour when
 swimming in the Arctic at Gravneset
(Photo © Joe Decker)
This morning at 09:30 we all met in the Observation Lounge.  The Captain warmly welcomed everyone and toasted the start of our voyage.  He then introduced us to key member’s of the ship.  It was then The Expedition Leader Karin Strand’s turn to introduce the Expedition Team.   We have a very large team for this voyage with nine regular Expedition Team members and three guest lecturers.
While we were being introduced to the Officers and the Expedition Team we cruised slowly into Magdalene Fjord, past the whaler’s grave site at Gravneset to drop anchor in Trinity Harbour.
The scenery was impressive.  Jagged mountains rose on three sides.  Several glaciers ripped a path through themountains and down to the sea.  We could see our landing site, a low sandy beach, just ahead of us.
We began landing operations at 10:15 and by 10:30 the first passengers were on shore.  We had lots of time we could spend at Gravneset so we sent in those people that wished to go on a long hike of three hours duration first.  After the long hikers were off the short hikers went ashore where there were Expedition Team members stationed at key points of interest and where they could survey the area for Polar Bears.  And we indeed did find bears.  Three of them were spotted on the opposite shoreline.  they were far enough away where they posed absolutely no threat to us.
At our muster stations during the mandatory safety drill.
(Photo © Joe Decker)
During the long hike someone fell rather awkwardly and suffered a bad fracture to their wrist.  Arrangements were soon made for a helicopter to come to the landing site from Longyearbyen. 
It seemed ironic that while we waited for the helicopter to arrive we had scheduled our compulsory safety drill.  It was an interesting procedure to watch and in which to participate.  The crew was very efficient in their jobs.  They have obviously gone through this same drill many, many times.
Shortly after 16:00 the helicopter set down on the beach at Gravneset and the patient, along with his wife were on their way to the hospital in Longyearbyen.  They were hopeful that once his injury was attended to that they would rejoin us in Tromsø.  Stay tuned to this story as we all hope for a happy reunion in Tromsø.
Polar Bear in Trinity harbour (Photo © Joe Decker)
When we were exiting Trinity Harbour the navigation officers brought us closer to the three bears we had spotted earlier.  Now that was exciting.  Our second day in the journey and we were lucky enough to see three Polar Bears.
As we sailed further north towards Moffen Island (which would the northernmost point on our journey) the skies cleared progressively.  At 19:30 we slowly approached what looked little more than a big sand bar.  It seemed boastful to call this an island.  As we faced the island on the right hand side, was a group of approximately fifty Walrus.  It was an inspiring sight.  The Captain guided the ship very slowly close to shore.  At our closest we were no more than 100 metres away.  A gorgeous pink sunset bathed the island in soft warm light.  It was a scene that would be indelibly etched in our minds.