Friday 15 August 2014

Going the other way round

Nobody can stop Nature, especially not in these parts, so close to the pole. We have re-learned this lesson on the last trip, when we had to turn around at the point of furthest north. To avoid this from happening again we changed our itinerary significantly by starting the trip counter-clockwise, in order to reach the most tempting part, Svalbard’s East, whatever the conditions are.
So we arrive at the legendary Hornsund after breakfast and the introduction of the officers and Expedition Team, under grey skies and with moderate winds. The name “Horn Sound” may seem a little confusing, as it is a dead end. But in fact it is only a lot of ice at its end that blocks the passage. Come warmer times and the name is absolutely accurate.
We start our activities in Austre Burgerbukta, one branch of the huge fjord, limited by a pretty glacier, Kvalfangerbreen.
From here a small group of intrepid hikers ventures into the flanks of the mountains, across steep moraines, having great views into the area and finding interesting fossils. At the end of a pretty strenuous walk they happily join up with the others who have been kayaking, glacier-walking, or simply strolling along the beach with this incredible scenario.
After a Polar Cirkel Boat ride to the impressive front of Kvalfangerbreen we weigh anchor.  Hornsund has the reputation as a good spot for polar bears, so all available binoculars are propped against keen eyes.
And we don’t have to wait for very long: High up in the neighboring fjord’s flank rests a bear, most likely after hunting for bird’s nests. One would not believe how good climbers they are! For a while we look at the furry mountaineer, then our captain takes us further into Hornsund, to Breepollen, a stunning spot where several glaciers meet and calve, shedding great amounts of ice into the water.
The fading light of the evening (although we are still a bit away from a real sunset) creates a monochrome and surreal atmosphere, here in this icy world.
During the night we will pass Sørkappen, the southernmost point of Spitsbergen, in order to cross the Storfjord (which is not a fjord…) to tomorrows destination, Barents Island.