Wednesday 24 August 2011

Alkehornet, Skansebukta & A BBQ!

The white cliffs of Alkehornet
The triangular white cliff face of Alkehornet is unmistakeable.  To some, the cliffs resemble the shape of a large horn.  It is the site of one of the world's largest colonies of Little Auks, hence the name Alkehornet.  At this time of year the Little Auks have already gone out to sea.  There were still hundreds of raucous Black-legged Kittiwakes flying about and perched high up on the cliff face. 
Alkehornet framed by the window of an
old ruined trapper's hut.
We were free to roam around a huge area.  The Expedition Team was stationed around the landing site at key spots for the interpretation of the history, geology and biology of the location and also to keep a watchful eye out for bears.
Small ship wreck on the beach at Skansebukta
There has been a large herd of approximately thirty Reindeer here over the summer.  Since this is a fairly heavily visited site it is not surprising that the Reindeer have become habituated to the presence of people.  It was often possible to approach the Reindeer within a few metres without disturbing them.  They were all in fantastic shape getting ready for the leaner times in the winter.  Right now the vegetation around Alkehornet is still lush and green. 
Our next landing was not scheduled until 18:30 which meant there was lots of time to attend some lectures in the afternoon.
Even though the second landing of the day was a late landing, no one missed the opportunity to go on shore in Spitsbergen one last time.  
I keep writing that the scenery at each landing site is impressive, stunning, amazing, awesome.  Pick your adjective.  The fact of the matter is, I'm not exaggerating!  The cliffs on both sides of the fjord are stupendous.  Really impressive.  It is also the site of another large seabird colony.  Northern Fulmars, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Puffins busily fly to and from the cliffs.  There is a beautiful beach for a leisurely stroll.  It was also possible to hike way up to the bottom of the vertical cliff face.  Hidden beneath the touring cliffs was a beautiful little gem of a waterfall.  About thirty people made the arduous climb to the waterfall and were rewarded with a spectacular view.
Meanwhile, back on the ship, the hotel staff had prepared a delicious bbq for everyone on deck 7 at the stern of the vessel.  All those that had hiked to the waterfall could have an extra dessert guilt free!
Yup.  It had been a very long day but what a great way to wrap up our Arctic adventure.  We can all sleep in when we get home!