Wednesday 1 August 2012

In the Realm of the Polar bear

MV FRAM finally comes to her anchorage place, close to the southerly part of the islet ‘Ytre Norskøya’. For some of us it is tempting to climb up to the top of its mountain (151 m) called ‘Zeeusche Uytkyk’, referring to the many whalers’ home province of Zeeland in the northern province of the Netherlands. On this hike we meet also some derelict coffins, probably from dutch whalers that have been brought to the fore from the ever moving active layer above the permafrost soil. Maybe this place is haunted by the dutch whalers. At least today this area shows itself from its inhospitable side as we experience the chilliness of these Northern stretches in the most tangible way.
On arriving in the Magdalenefjord, all of a sudden we are taken by a sense of excitement as we spot our first polar-bear climbing the side moraine ridges nearby Gravneset. The king of the arctic gradually disappears and settles for a prolonged ‘snoozing’ session further away in the Gullybreen area.

Keen to see more, and with a taste of authentic adventure we embark on our landing at Gravneset at the Magdalenefjord for a guided tour on the history of whaling. Nevertheless, our expedition-leader decides to cancel the previously announced hiking trip that would have passed the Gullybreen area due to the presence of the polarbear. Some travel-guides hint towards the need to visit one hundred world-famous destinations before one is ‘granted’ the right to depart this world. At least these are the provoking titles of some travelogues. Amongst those hundred destinations the ‘whale-hunting’ fjord: ‘Magdalenefjord’ is on many a bespoke travel author’s list.

On arriving at the fjord, we enjoy the placid atmosphere of the fjord. ‘Graveneset’ - the old burial place of the whalers – towers forlorn above the low-lying sandy beaches that were referred to by the English whalers as Trinity Bay. This place is definitely a captivating place. There is this inexplicable eeriness hovering around this mystical destination. Particularly when thinking back to the 17th century and imagining the up to 200-300 ton wooden whaling ships and their auxiliary rowing-boats that were once all afloat in this fjord trying to harpoon the slow swimming Greenland right whale. We continue our exploration of this unique pristine landscape. While the sturdy MS FRAM steams wholeheartedly into southerly direction, it passes the sun-lit mountain ridges of the seven sister glaciers.