The skies are bright blue and clear as we stop the ship deep inside the Austre (Eastern) Burgerbukta. It is one of the side fjords of Hornsund, the Horn Sound. Not a breeze, gentle 7 degrees - are we really in the Arctic…?
Whatever, the conditions are more than perfect for a hike. Well, not just a hike, but a real piece of expedition: With 24 bold people we set out in the eastern flank of the fjord to make our way across the difficult terrain and up the moraine slopes.
That means balancing on boulders, crawling up the loose material that is giving way under our feet, crossing snow fields and muddy areas.
Truly no walk in the park. But our efforts are rewarded by the most magnificent views you probably can get here, and that says a lot. The majesty of the surrounding mountains and glaciers is breathtaking (well, the hike is, too…).
And after a great many photo stops, after 3 hours of scrambling, we arrive back at the beach, where we are picked up by the boats.
What a morning! And, man, are we hungry!!! Fortunately, we are welcomed aboard with a delicious barbecue, so we eat a lot - outside, just in front of the glacier.
One thing the hikers didn’t see was polar bears. This is not a complaint, a glacier moraine is not the place where you want to meet them.
But this doesn’t meant there are not around: Only half an hour after FRAM moves deeper into Hornsund we see two of them, on the ice and swimming. And this time we got really close, as if the day wasn’t good enough already.
Time to leave the fjord, now we go out further at sea, to a special place: The continental drop-off. What sounds like an accident-prone place is rather our best shot to spot whales. It is the place where the continental plateau of Svalbard dives deep into the ocean. The resulting cold currents provide a lot of food for marine animals, so often they gather in these parts. The conditions again are perfect, all we can do is hope.
But alas, this evening we are not lucky, the gentle giants won’t show up. Maybe this is faith telling us “Hey folks, you had so many sensations on this trip, why not leave a few for the ones after you…?”