Saturday 3 September 2011

Monacobreen & Mushamna

Snow falling at Monaco glacier.
When we woke up this morning it was snowing outside!  Fantastic. It never fails, every time the first snow falls I feel like a little kid again!   The dining room on Fram has huge picture widows on three sides.  It was lovely to enjoy breakfast and watch snowflakes gently drift down.  The closer we got to Monaco Glacier the more ice we encountered and all of the ice was covered with a blanket of fresh fluffy snow.  
Fresh snowfall at Monaco glacier
Snow. By the calendar it is still summer.  Autumn doesn’t arrive for almost three weeks.  By the calendar, winter doesn’t arrive until December 21. Well scratch autumn off the calendar because around here it looks like we’re going from summer straight to winter!
Everyone loved cruising through the heavy ice in the Polar Cirkel boats while it was snowing. How could you not?  It was magical. It took about four hoursfor everyone to get there turn on the water.
Black-legged Kittiwakes were abundant.  Many of them rested on small icebergs and ice floes.  The juveniles have very different plumage than the adults making the young birds from this year very easy to tell apart from the adults.

Polar Cirkel boat cruising at Monaco glacier
In the afternoon we landed at Mushamna.  There is a beautiful hunter’s cabin there.  It is possible to over winter here as the cabin is in very good condition.  Each year there is a different tenant as qualified hunters need to apply to the Governor of Svalbard.  Tenancy is for one year with a possibility to extend for a 2nd year.  
Ships need to gain permission from the tenant if they wish to pay a visit to Mushamna, however this year’s tenant had already left for the season.
It was easy terrain in which to walk around.  We were free to explore the area around the cabin and to go further afield where the Expedition Team was, as usual, keeping a watchful eye for Polar Bears.
Hunter's cabin at Mushamna
It was a beautiful calm evening.  Hardly a breath of wind disturbed the air.  In a small lagoon by the cabin were a pair of Loons.  There were also Purple Sandpipers, Arctic Terns, Pink-footed Geese and Bryants Geese in the area.
Later in the evening, back on Fram, the ship’s officers and the Expedition Team put on a Fashion show in the Observation Lounge.  Just about all of the fashions available in the gift shop were modeled for us.  It was an evening that was full of fun as these were not professional models!