Wednesday 31 July 2013

A Spectacular Last Day!

At approximately 08:00 we arrived at the impressive bird cliffs of Alkehornet. High above us Kittiwakes wheeled about the horn shaped massif.  The strident calls of thousands of seabirds filled the air. The low cloud cover and grey sky lent a somber air to the imposing mountain scape.  In short order the Expedition Team had dispersed over an immense landing site, making sure there weren't any lurking bears about.
By 08:30 the first boat groups were called ashore.  A large group of Reindeer grazed quietly on the lush vegetation for which Alkehornet is known.  It was difficult to get an accurate count but there were approximately 100 animals in the herd.  This population of reindeer is not hunted and in addition, the site is very well visited, consequently the reindeer have become habituated to people.  On more than one occasion an astonished passenger had a Reindeer approach within three or four metres as it quietly nibbled the green grass.
Lots of folks got to see an energetic Arctic fox scurrying about the site. 
Arctic Skuas and Glaucous Gulls were actively predating upon the chicks of Black Guillemot as they plunged from their nests.  The Glaucous Gulls were also seen preying on Little Auks, while the Arctic Fox was seen taking a Skua chick.
We were free to go exploring over a huge green plain and for those of us that craved more exercise, we could walk up a steep slope where there was a great overview of the entire area.
Our Kayakers at Skansebukta

Around 13:30 everyone was back on board and we set a course for Alkehornet.  During the afternoon the crew ran a safety drill.  It was comforting to know that the crew on this ship is very well rehearsed for emergencies.  
At 15:00 we all met in the observation lunge for the Captain's farewell and cocktail.  The crew, officers and Expedition Team sang a touching farewell song after the Captain's speech.
At 17:00 we arrived at Skansebukta.  We didn't think it possible but the landscape here is even more impressive than at Alkehornet.  The landscape is sort of Grand Canyon-ish and reminds one of John Ford's grand westerns. One could easily imagine John Wayne herding some long horns below the cliffs. 
Lots of people opted to trek up to a very high waterfall where they got a lofty view from a Fulmar's perspective.  The cliff face was riddled with Fulmar nests.  Puffins constantly whirred by with their little wings flapping at a furious 400 bpm.  
On the way back to the ship we were treated to a short Polar Cirkel boat ride to where we had excellent views of the Puffins.  
The last of us returned to the ship shortly after 21:00.  It had been a very long but a very rewarding final day on our Arctic Adventure.