Sunday 17 August 2014

Ice Time, Bear Time

The second half of yesterday presented us with strong winds coming from the North. Uh, oh… This is where we want to go, this is where the ice is coming from, this is where the mouth of the Hinlopenstretet opens up like a funnel towards the ice.
That means one thing: Expedition. Only one way to find out what the conditions are - go there and see for yourself.
But before we get hit by the ice we want to hit it ourself. The ice edge seems to be on the eastern shores of Nordaustlandet, pretty far south. So we approach the vast expanse of white, lower the Polar Cirkel Boats and take a ride into the endless brightness. It is a mind-blowing experience, knowing that from here to the North Pole you might even walk. So much space!
Everbody’s faces were glowing on return, not so much of the morning temperatures, but rather of enthusiasm.
Well, there is no free lunch… The ice that gave us this wonderful morning experience suddenly seemed to be closing in from all sides. So FRAM had to show what she’s got, for the next hours we were crunching through the ice sheet with much less speed than anticipated. Here goes the afternoon landing. The question is even more pressing: Will we be able to go through Hinlopen Strait in the first place? What if…?
Well, our Expedition Leader Karin managed to get the positions of two other expedition vessels on the East side of Spitsbergen, even talk to the captain of one of them. The information was a relief: Not only had they found a clear passage, but also our next stop, Torellneset, was not iced over.
So here we go, into the ice a little more!
Luck favors the brave. And so - just before the afternoon lectures were about to start - we hear the familiar “bing-bong” from the bridge: Polar Bear on the ice! This is what we were yet missing on this voyage, the bears where they really belong to!
And it proved to be the best possible bears you can imagine. First resting on the ice, occasionally lifting the head, yawning, sticking out the tongue, then slowly walking away, giving us ample opportunity to get the best shots, in perfect light.
Of course the lectures (one of them about - ice, of course…) were interrupted and only continued after the “bear was over”.
In the evening the material that kept us busy was chiseled into something beautiful during the food and ice carving demonstration.