Wednesday 7 September 2011

Alkehornet and Flintholmen

Windy day at Alkehornet (Photo © joe Decker)
This morning we landed beneath an impressive triangular-shaped white cliff called Alkehornet.  High above us in front of the cliff face the last of the Kittiwakes circled, shrilly calling their own names, “kitti-wa-ake!  Kitti-wa-ake! Kitti-wa-ake!”  Sleek and powerful Parasitic Jaegers would occasionally go streaking by.  In the U.K. Parasitic Jaegers are referred to as Arctic Skuas.  They are the F18s of the Avian Arctic.  They make their living by stealing the food from other sea birds.  Not a lot fun if you are a Puffin, Guillemot or Kittiwake. Forgive the anthropomorphisms but there is an elegant, edgy, cool factor to Jaegers that other sea birds just don’t possess.  If I was a sea bird I would definitely be a Jaeger. 
Lush vegetation at Alkehornet (Photo © Joe Decker)
There were several groups of Svalbard Reindeer quietly grazing on the very lush vegetation.  Rutting season begins in September. Males with large racks of antlers accompanied females with large calves.  
The wind augmented throughout the landing.  It seemed fine when we walked inland but on the return, suddenly you were blasted in the face.  Instead of an undetectable fuel for life, air became an invisible physical presence you fought against. Each step felt like pushing against a barrier.  It was another reminder that summer was over and that winter would soon be here.
It wasn't surprising that the surf had picked up at the landing site.  It was a bit tricky to get back in the Polar Cirkel boats and it was certainly a cold, soggy ride back to the ship. 
Svalbard Reindeer at Alkehornet (Photo © Joe Decker)
In the afternoon there was time for a couple of lectures which was followed by a landing at Flintholmen at 18:00.
This was the only landing we made here all season.  It was really a nice place!  We made an easy landing on a broad cobblestone beach.  The most interesting thing about this site is that were fossils to be found almost wherever there was exposed rock.   One only had to stroll along the beach and it was easy to spot rocks loaded with fossilized shells.
A light rain fell throughout the landing but the winds had dropped to almost nothing.  It was much warmer as well.  On the beach, Tom and Andy were there to assist everyone in crossing a glacial stream.  Indeed, anyone without Muckboots were practically thrown across the river - much to everyone's delight!!
There was a short walk to a small but beautiful waterfall.  Our geologist, Steffen Biersack was there to greet everyone.  He enthusiastically explained the key elements of geology that shaped the surrounding landscape and had several fossil samples to show to everyone.