All aboard and even those unlucky with lost luggage set of towards Barenstburg with a smile. The expedition cruise had started. With the clear blue sky Barentsburg was bathing in sunlight. We enjoyed a culture show and a guided trip in the Russian mining town before set out towards the mouth of Isfjorden and the start of our expedition.
Bright and shiny we encountered a nice meeting with four Polar bears two females and two cubs in the Kongsfjord. Arriving Ny-Ålesund, the northern most settlement we got a good overview of the old mining town which is now a research town. Stories of old explorers succeeding and failing were told and still visual like the Amundsen mast. Leaving the Kongsfjord we met two Polar bears cooling down in the waters nearby land before we sailed into the ocean fog. In the Magdalenafjord the clouds made the scenery moody and thrilling. We set out on a hike and got to walk all the way to Gullibreen were we could enjoy the forces of nature watching the glacier calving and creating small tsunami waves. Those still awake at 2am got to see the most popular sand beach in the north – Moffen. Right after we got company of several whales whereas two of them were confirmed to be Blue Whales, the biggest animal that has ever lived.
We reached our northern most point the sea ice edge 81.50 north. Here we met with the king of the Arctic and some ringed seals while cruising in and near by drift ice. The ivory gull, pomarine scua, guillmot, puffin, fulmar, arctic scua and little auks was flying around the ship. We cruised passed the northern most Island at Spitsbergen, Rossøya and headed towards Phippsøya. The smelly walruses lied on the beach stuffed with bivalves and clams. The beaches here was full of plastic that has arrives with currents up to the pristine arctic and everyone contributed to clean as best as we could.
Alkefjellet – The New York of birdcliffs was the sight we woke up to on day 4. To get really close to this amazing place we had a cruise for all guests. We got close enough to both see and smell the thousands and thousands of Brunich`s Guillmots nesting there. It’s a truly fantastic experience to get this close to the hectic life in the birdcliff. Just the sound from all the birds is enough to take your breath away. Later that day we did a landing at Torellneset. The welcome commity was in the form of a big group of smelly walruses. The Walrus is a fascinating creature that always puts on a good show. Some of the guests were lucky enough to get onto the Mariaglacier, a part of Vegafonna. It was a cold hike with hard winds, but the view up there is world class and made it all worth it.
This morning we woke up to a white world outside. The plan was to make a landing at Kapp Walburg in Freemannsundet, but when we couldn’t even see land it looked quite unlikely for a while. This being an expedition cruise we sent our expedition team on shore and after making sure there was no Polar bears around we started our landing. After a while the fog lifted and we could enjoy this beautiful place together with the Kittiwakes, polar foxes and some even found droppings from the white king himself.
Austre Burgerbukta welcomed us with high mountain peaks and remains of Polar bear lunches. A dead fox could show us how long decomposing takes in the high arctic being almost intact after already two years. Here we stood and felt the arctic weather and the pure and ruff wind coming down from the two beautiful glacier fronts, Mühlbacher glacier and Kvalfanger glacier. We cruised in the beautiful Brepollen area and stood on deck imagining the vastness of the glacier connecting to each other only 50 years ago. Sailing out of Hornsund heading northwards on the west coat the Gulfstream collaborated with the winds to make in a bit bumpy, but the show must go on and the crew show put a lot of smiles onto our faces.
Arriving Alkehornet in Isfjorden the fog was dense and the wind speeding at 17m/s. We sailed forwards to Ymerbukta and the Esmark glacier. Here we were sheltered from the rough seas and could set out on our expeditions. Some were kayaking and some took on crampons and went hiking on the glacier. The rest of us hiking up the moraine and some found beautiful fossils of ferns. After we got the wet clothes off and had a warm shower and lunch we had a farewell cocktail with the captain and his crew. The last expedition was the ghost town of Pyramiden, once holding over 3000 residents. Nordenskiöld glacier with its magnificent beauty was a perfect last stop before we set sailed towards the safe harbor of Longyearbyen.