Tuesday 30 August 2011


Polar Bear scat!!!
Because of the great distance involved we were not due to arrive at our landing site at Gnålodden until later in the afternoon.  It was a perfect day for scenic cruising and just about everywhere you go in Svalbard is scenic.  We had partly cloudy skies and calm weather throughout the day.  Partly cloudy also means partly sunny.  It was a day to put a smile on your face.
Mornings or afternoons without landings are never wasted on board Fram.  We always use that time to continue with our lecture series.  This morning was no different. We had lectures on several topics in English and German as well as showing two different documentaries.
I need a thesaurus to come up with new words to describe the scenery in Svalbard.  Gnålodden and the bird cliff, Gnålberget are spectacular. I believe I have also used all of the following synonyms for spectacular when describing Svalbard: stunning, incredible, amazing, fantastic, fabulous, magnificent, brilliant, dramatic, dazzling, breathtaking, astonishing, marvelous, wonderful and exciting.  Take your pick.  They all work.

At 14:30 we hopped into the Polar Cirkel boats and enjoyed a short ride through lots of small bergy bits to a gravel beach.  Looming impressively overhead were the lofty bird cliffs of Gnålberget.  Thousands of Kittiwakes, called shrilly. The cliffs seemed to amplify the sound.  There were also a lot of Northern Fulmars still soaring about the cliffs as well as the occasional Puffin and Arctic Skua.
In one area of the landing site there was so much bear dung that it more resembled a cow pasture than a scene visited by Polar Bears beneath a remote sea bird colony.  Most of the scat was relatively fresh.  This information put the Expedition Team on high alert.  Before long the Team spotted a lone bear on a large ice floe about a kilometre away.  With good binoculars you could see that the bear was busily eating a seal.  The bear posed no immediate danger so we continued with the landing operation.  After about an hour the bear hopped into the water.  It appeared to have no destination in mind as it seemed to swim aimlessly about.  Perhaps it needed to bath after feasting on the seal.  Regardless, after about twenty minutes the bear went back to the same ice floe and continued with its fine meal of seal.
Meanwhile on the other side of the landing site, an Arctic Fox came very close to some people and was even chewing on the boot of one of the Expedition Team.  Amazing!
Many people chose to go high up on a grass covered scree slope where they could view the sea birds better and where they also had good viewing of both Barnacle Geese and Pink-footed Geese.
By 17:30 the last Polar Cirkel boat had left the shore and soon after, Fram was under way again.  At 19:15 there was an announcement that several large whales had been seen on the horizon.  We changed course and headed for the whales.  As we got closer we could see that it was two feeding Fin Whales, the second largest animals to have lived.  The whales were feeding right at the surface.  At times we could see them roll onto their sides with their mouths wide open in a feeding lunge.
We stayed with the whales for 45 minutes before going back on course.  Perhaps we would encounter more whales on route.