Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Ytre Norskøya and Magdalenefjorden

The first landing of two today on the island Ytre Norskøya was beautiful. Perfectly calm weather made landing easy, and a “red carpet” aided everyone over the rocks, green with slick algae. A walk along the coast towards the lookout point took people past several old graves that, through a process of freezing and thawing of the ground, have pushed the coffins to the surface. Nesting Arctic Terns, protective of their eggs, flew down and nipped at guest’s heads while walking past sites that whalers in the mid 1600’s used to boil down blubber for oil. Clambering up the rocks, the ornithologist on board was eagerly pointing out nesting Guillemots, Little Auks, and Glaucous Gulls. Down on the water an old whaler lookout offered splendid views of the surrounding fjords.

This afternoons landing on Magdalena Fjord was beautiful as well, the large glacier rose up into the mountains, whose tops hid in the fog and clouds. This area was an important whaling station, in fact, the first place where whaling was carried out on a large scale. The sites at which large copper pots were set up to cook blubber are still visible on the beach. On the hill behind the cooking sites is another cemetery, with the only chain in Svalbard surrounding it! The hikers were taken on a nice walk to Gullybreen. The landing ended with the opportunity to go swimming in arctic waters which several people capitalized on including several crewmembers, all earning an arctic swimming certificate.
The day ended with the crew show, and as always, the dancing was superb.