This morning we had a more leisurely start to the day. the first item on our agenda was a welcome speech and cocktail with the Captain in the Observation Lounge. Perhaps it was a trifle early for a glass of champagne but I didn't notice anyone complaining. The Captain gave a brief but warm speech welcoming them to Fram and then a toast to a happy voyage. He then introduced key members of the ship which was followed by the Expedition Leader introducing the Expedition Team.
At 11:15 it was time to be fitted with Muck Boots™. Almost all of our landings in Spitsbergen are wet landings. Proper foot wear is essential.
At approximately 13:00 the Captain announced from the bridge that two Polar Bears had been spotted on the port side. The dining was full and everyone rushed over to the large picture windows on the port side in the hopes of getting a view of Ursus Maritimus, the single most charismatic quadri-pedal mega fauna in all of Svalbard. Outside the bow deck quickly filled with people. Everyone was anxious to get a glimpse of the iconic animal of the Arctic. But certainly more than a glimpse was possible. everyone got excellent views of the female swimming with her cub in her wake. At one point the two climbed onto an ice floe but without hesitation they immediately jumped back into the polar sea. It was our best bear sighting so far this season! I am sure it is sight indelibly printed on everyone's mind.
The bear sighting put our schedule back by about 45 minutes. As we approached Gnålodden the clouds lowered, enveloping Fram in a blanket of misty grey. It was on everyone's mind, "would we be able to land in the fog"?
It turned out that by the time of the afternoon landing at 15:00 the fog was a little thinner. The visibility was at least 400 metres. No problem. On shore at Gnålodden we were able to climb to within 100 metres of a huge colony of raucous Black-legged Kittiwakes. Glaucous Gulls soared in their midst as did Fulmars. Now and then a Puffin would go whirring by. The Guillemot chicks were old enough to take their first flight and icy plunge into the sea. Occasionally you could see a fledgling escorted by a parent or two descend down to the sea. What a stirring sight.
The mist was so heavy that it was borderline rain. Within minutes your outer garments would be dripping. However modern day textiles are such that a heavy mist is not even a mild inconvenience.
The last Polar Cirkel boat left the shore at 19:00. Soon after we heaved anchor and headed somewhat into the open sea. We were headed for the drop-off zone where we hoped to see whales.
Tune in again tomorrow to find out if we had any luck spotting the leviathans of the deep.