Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Beluga Whales, Polar Bears and Blue Skies

Photo © Morten Hilmer
Our day started with an early morning announcement from Karin Strand, our Expedition Leader, “Good morning everyone.  We have a group of Beluga whales outside of the ship”.  Who cared that it was only 06:30?  Many people leapt out of bed, grabbed their cameras and rushed out on deck to see  about thirty beautiful white whales not far from the ship.  And then about 45 minutes later, another announcement only this time a Polar Bear had been spotted on shore.  First while whales and now a white bear.  A really great Arctic wildlife experience. 
What a difference a day of sunshine makes.  What is it about a clear blue day that puts a smile on everyone’s face?  When you combine a sunny, windless day with some spectacular scenery, well, no wonder everyone was smiling all day long.
Kittiwakes in front of Monacobreen
Photo © Morten Hilmer
Today we arrived at Monacobreen at the head of Liefdefjorden at approximately 09:30.  A note to all of you non-Scandinavians out there:  breen means glacier.  Monacobreen translates directly to Monaco glacier. Fjorden is more obvious.
As per usual when we are at Monaco Glacier we put just about everyone in the Polar Cirkel boats to explore along the magnificent glacier front.  Of course we don’t have room for everyone all at the same time but by the end of the morning everyone but the hikers and kayakers had had an opportunity to see the glacier from a close but safe distance.

Glaucous Gull eating a Kittiwake
Photo © Morten Hilmer
Meanwhile the hikers had a magnificent morning to climb to 630 metres to a mountain peak with a really great view of the entire Liefdefjorden.  Needless to say, the kayakers had perfect paddling conditions.
Photo © Morten Hilmer
All of that was followed by a delicious lunch bbq outside on deck seven.
And that was just the first half of the day.
At 16:00 we arrived at the hunter’s cabin in Mushamna.  It is quite a lovely site.  The large cabin was made entirely from driftwood that floated its way here all the way from Siberia.
After the landing at Mushamna we cruised ever further north.  Our goal was to reach the wildlife sanctuary of Moffen Island.  Moffen lies at the lofty latitude of 80º N plus a hair.  No landings are allowed on the island nor is it possible to cruise in small boats.  Upon arrival it was apparent why.  This is critical habitat for walruses.  As we slowly approached Moffen we could see approximately 100 Walrus lying huddled together by the water’s edge.  The waters around Moffen support large clam beds which are the main food source for Walruses.
At approximately 22:30 we crossed latitude 80ºN., a cause for celebration!

At 23:00 the sun was still shining, still high in the sky at close to 45º.