Tuesday 9 August 2011

Monacobreen, Moffen Island and 80˚North

Iceberg at Monaco Glacier

We had a quiet, lazy morning cruising towards Monaco Glacier.  On Fram there are many places with large windows where you can sit quietly and enjoy the scenery. Today was a hazy grey day, perfect for reading, relaxing and maybe even learning about our surroundings. We didn’t arrive at Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier) until 12:30 which meant there was time in the morning to attend a couple of lectures.

Polar Cirkel boat cruising in Liefdefjorden
The character of Monacobreen and Liefdefjorden changes on a daily basis.  Sometimes it seems to change on an even tighter timeline.  The last time we were here (3 days ago) we thought there was a lot of ice.  Ha!  Today there was at least double that amount.  For Polar Cirkel boat cruising in the ice it was fantastic.  The ice conditions meant that we could not go as close to the glacier.  It would just take us too long to make our way through the dense brash iced to allow for it.  However, that was not a big loss.  There was ice everywhere.  A beautiful assortment of blue icebergs and lots of bergy bits to plow through.  Many of us also found a lone, young Bearded Seal hauled out on an ice floe.
At times the low cloud cover dropped down to sea level creating a light fog and mist.  At those times the Polar Cirkel boats went in a convoy, sticking close together for safety. 
As usual, the air deep in the fjord was full of sea birds.  The bird of the day would be the Black-legged Kittiwake as it was very abundant.  We could also enjoy watching them from the ship as they fished in the clear water created by Fram’s bow and stern thrusters.
By 18:30 the last happy group had returned from their cruise in the ice.  We lifted the anchor and set a course for 80˚ and Moffen Island.
Moffen was superb.  There were more than 60 walruses.  There were three groups hauled out on the sandy shore and many walruses hanging out in the water near the shore line.  As we watched the walruses we listened to a narration of the natural history of the walrus over the ship’s P.A. system.
It was almost time to go when the Chief Officer spotted a Polar Bear about two hundred metres behind the walruses.  The bear appeared to be sound asleep and was lying amongst some drift wood.  Well spotted Chief! 
To celebrate the most northernly point on our journey the hotel staff served a cocktail to everyone on the bow deck. At 22:35 we turned to the south.  Tomorrow’s destinations: Magdalena Fjord and Ny-Ålesund.