Sunday, 3 August 2014

Huts and Birds and Walruses

A very calm morning in Murchinsonfjorden, perfect for our landing at Kinnvika, the ancient scientific station in the North of the Hinlopen Strait.
Considering that the large number of huts was already erected in 1957/58, the good shape of the buildings is surprising. With a bit of solid catering one could start a lengthy stay right away, which you really cannot say of all the places in these parts. Even a sauna building is there, and by the looks of it it might be well possible to get it running again. Now imagine that, polar bears scratching at your sauna door…!
The landscape is wide, seemingly endless, its beauty emphasized by the clear morning air and the soft light from the clouds.
After lunch we reach certainly one of the most spectacular spots of Svalbard: Alkefjellet, bird mountain. A steep basaltic cliff is not only home to about 60.000 breeding pairs of Brunich’s guillemots who perch and nest on the very narrow ledges in the rocks, but also to thousands of glaucous gulls and kitty wakes. 200.000 birds live here, so the air is filled with wings and screams, and from the distance you might rather think it’s mosquitoes flying - there’s just so many of them!
As we move closer they are all around us, in the water, in the cliffs, overhead, and it is clearly no good idea to gaze at them flying above you with your mouth wide open…
Three times we pass this ornithological world wonder before we change course to head further south to our afternoon destination, Torellneset.
This is a favorite haul-out for walruses, for the sake of the very flat beach, which the blubbery giants need to get their enormous masses ashore.
Knowing this, we were more than a bit disappointed when we couldn’t spot a single one on the beach. Where were they?? But then, steering around the horn of Torellneset, there was the relief: A group of about 20 animals of various age were stretched out in a relaxed fashion on the beach, not 200 meters away from their “standard” place. So we launched the boats, and the rest of the evening passed with carefully creeping up onto the huge, grunting, smelly, weird creatures, which they are.
Another successful day with loads of wildlife!