Wednesday 31 August 2011

Alkehornet & Skansebukta

 Our first landing of the day was at Alkehornet.  As usual there was a large heard of approximately 30 reindeer grazing peacefully throughout much of the landing site.  This is a mixed heard of young calves with their mothers and males of various ages.  Some of the males had a very impressive rack of antlers.  Several of the males were in the process of shedding the velvet from their antlers.  You could see the soft velvety skin hanging in ragged patches.  The antlers appeared bloody red where the skin had recently been shed.
They were not at all bothered by our presence.  They would often wander within 3 or 4 metres of camera bearing people much to the photographer's delight.
The morning was completely overcast.  A chilly damp wind blew constantly while we were ashore.  Despite the cool air it was wonderful to stroll about this very peaceful site.  For those who enjoyed views from on high there was a nice vantage point a little closer to the nesting Kittiwakes.
Once and a while a trio of birds would go rocketing by at Exocet speeds.  Parasitic Jaegers chasing young Kittiwakes and sometimes seen chasing Puffins.  We weren't sure if this was pure harassment or if the Jaegers were sometimes successful.  
At 17:30 we all met in the Observation where the Captain gave a nice speech about what a successful trip we had enjoyed.  We raised a glass of champagne or fruit juice to toast our voyage which was followed by the MS Fram choir singing for everyone. 
In the early evening at 18:30 we landed at Skansebukta (one of my favourite sites!).  It was still damp and overcast.  The ghost of a feeble sun struggled behind the clouds. Despite the date, autumn is settling in here in Svalbard.
A few of the hardier souls chose to hike up to a small but beautiful waterfall at the vertical cliff face.  Suddenly, midway through the landing we heard a series of very loud gun shots.  The sound reverberated off opposing sides of the fjord.  We soon discovered that two people from Longyearbyen were engaged in some target practice.
Back on the ship the hotel staff had prepared a really great bbq for everyone.  There was a light rain falling so most people chose to eat there meal in the Observation Lounge.  It was a nice way to wrap up a fantastic voyage.