Saturday, 3 August 2013

Polar Bear on the Landing Site!

The Expedition Team hit the beach in front of Recherche Glacier at 08:15. They "half-loaded" their rifles and then dispersed around the perimeter of the landing site like a well oiled machine.

There is excellent visibility at this location as there is a large glacial lake in front of the glacier and then in front of the lake there is a great  moraine plain. Generally that means we can spot a bear early if there is one on the site.  Which is precisely what happened this morning. We were barely all in position and had given the "all clear" when Manuelito spotted a Polar Bear swimming in the glacial lake. The bear was at least a kilometre away. The Expedition Team kept a watchful eye on the bear and at the same time,  tightened up the perimeter.

The decision was made to send a Polar Cirkel boat up a short glacial stream which led into the lake in order to better keep en eye on the bear. The bear tried to climb onto ice floes a couple of times but wasn't successful. When it became apparent that the bear was steadily making its way eastward and away from the landing site it was decided that we could very safely continue with the landing.

Eventually the bear went on shore near the glacier and disappeared from site about 3 kilometres away. Well, that certainly added some excitement to the morning!

As the day progressed the clouds began to disperse and the sun illuminated Recherche Glacier in dappled sunlight. The morning passed without further incident. By 12:30 everyone was back on Fram.

In the afternoon we landed at Bamsebu which is Norwegian for Bear Cabin or more likely closer in meaning to Teddy Bear's Cabin. The name Bamsebu is carved over the entrance of a beautiful small log cabin just up from the beach and the landing site.  The cabin was most likely transported there by the NEC (Norwegian Exploration Company) many years ago.  Now it is used as a summer cottage by some people in Longyearbyen.

The beach in front of Bamsebu has heaps of Beluga Whale bones left over from the 1930s.  The bones represent an estimated 550 whales. The Beluga whales were hunted for their skin and blubber. The meat was not consumed but was discarded.

Around 14:30 the first passengers arrived on shore. Everyone was divided into language groups and were given a guided tour of the site by the Expedition Team. The tour led down the beach, by Bamsebu (hut), across a tundra plain and over to the bay where the whales were hunted over 80 years ago and eventually ended up at the landing site after having completed a large circuit.

Some passengers opted to go on a kayaking excursion which took them to a small group of islands with a large population of Eider ducks.

By 19:00 everyone had left the beach and was back on Fram.

In the evening there briefings for the plans for tomorrow and then at 21:45 everyone went to the Observation lounge on deck Seven where the Officers, Crew and Expedition Team put on a fashion show which featured many items from the gift shop.