PolarQuest has arranged three fantastic trips to Galapagos this autumn. Below you can read an excerpt from the first trip (25th October to 7th November).
Santiago: Puerto Egas & Bartolomé Island
We arrived to Puerto Egas on Santiago and we went for a morning walk. It took us to the Grottos, where we met a new creature - the Galapagos fur seal. Here were also saw piles of marine iguanas basking in the morning sun. We also saw what’s called ”Darwin´s toilet”, an impressive whole in the ground flushed by sea water. Then the underwater adventure continued amongst countless tropical fish before another tasty lunch. After repositioning the Beluga, we anchored at Bartolomé Island. Then some few hundred steps up the stairs brought us to Bartolome’s highest point. Here we learned more about volcanism and saw perfect examples in the landscape around.
This year, we arrived in Svalbard in the beginning of May and were greeted by a fairy-tale winter landscape. The premiere trip was followed by four months of adventures, and when we in September bid farewell to our Artic pearl, autumn had arrived and the archipelago had started to prepare for the dark polar night. Via the link below, please find a slideshow with a selection of images and film clips that summarises this year's unforgettable Svalbard season.
Since 1999, we have gathered travellers from all around the world to explore the enchanting Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. After nearly 20 seasons up in the north we can look back at many memorable trips, all of them unique. When we embark one of our expedition ships and head out in the unspoiled wilderness, we are fully dependent on weather and wind, ice and wildlife. Flexibility, unpredictability and grand nature experiences are the main keywords when you travel to Svalbard with PolarQuest.
Our guide Olle Carlsson is blogging from our trip on board the ship Academy Sergey Vavilov. Read and allow yourself to daydream about the subantarctic island South Georgia, hosting one of the world's most staggering wildlife shows!
26th October - round to the north coast, Gold Harbour and Royal Bay
A grey sky over Gold Harbour didn't diminish the great impression of a beach crowded with elephant seals side by side with king penguins and their furry chicks. And they were not alone – skuas, kelp gulls, sheathbills and giant petrels were patrolling the beach, looking for something to eat, like a placenta or a dead seal. On the flat behind the beach gentoo penguins were nesting and just above them flew pintails. By the slopes light-mantled albatrosses engaged in courtship displays, and their call for each other were heard close to the landing where we could enjoy the sight of these graceful birds. The clouds parted and the sun shone warm over us when an extraordinary fight between two male elephant seals overwhelmed us, and many were lucky enough to see leopard seal on their way back to the ship too. Amazed by the wildlife and the beauty of the surroundings we arrived just in time for lunch, and the ship sailed on towards Royal Bay. Its ice covered mountain peaks and glistening glaciers were well worth the time we spent there. Sun went down and the light reflecteded in calved ice, mist and clouds amongst the mountains blushed, and so this fantastic day had come to an end.
Sparkling ice formations and pastel coloured skies, snow covered mountains and breathtaking sceneries – it’s an indescribable experience to witness the archipelago of Svalbard spring to life. The polar bear yearlings venture out for the first time, the Arctic foxes and the Svalbard reindeers still wear their winter fur and sometimes both bears and seals can be seen on the fjord ice in front of the glaciers. The little auks and the Brünnich’s guillemots have returned to their summer nests and the bird cliffs are teeming with life. With our sturdy rubber boats we cruise along glaciers and explore the magnificent fjords as we keep a lookout for the Arctic wildlife.
Dawn found Sea Endurance sailing deep in to Kaiser Franz Josefs Fjord. Huge mountains rose on either side of us, lit red by the rising sun. Icebergs dotted the fjord waters as we turned and sailed in to Nordfjord and approached the enormous 11km/ 6nm long Waltershausen Glacier face. After breakfast we stepped into the Zodiacs to explore the icebergs and crevassed glacier, witnessing a few dramatic calvings. There was the chance to land at the lateral moraine and walk up to an overview of glacier, ice studded water, mountains and distant ship.
We were back on board for a late lunch as the ship repositioned to the coast of Strindberg Land and the huts at Laksehytta. We went ashore on the east side of the river valley as we had spotted musk ox on the tundra. Once ashore we were able to walk closer to these fabulous shaggy beasts as they grazed and then mock sparred with one another, banging their heads together with a resounding thud. We split into groups for walks and photographing the landscape. Those who went to the river’s edge discovered that the Arctic char were running up river to spawn. Glaucous gulls and even two Arctic foxes were trying to feast on them. We could see why one of the huts ashore formerly had been used by fishermen harvesting the char. The other hut is now used by the Sirius Sled Patrol. An abandoned Nansen sledge was outside. The day ended with a wonderful sunset, highlighting a superb coned iceberg and against a backdrop of amazing rock. What a wonderful first day exploring the fjords of East Greenland!
Get to know some of our most famous polar explorers! In previous newsletters, we have written about Willem Barents, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld and Fridtjof Nansen. This time, we will tell you more about Salomon August Andrée and his ill-fated North Pole expedition.
On 11th July, 1897, a hydrogen balloon lifted from Danskøya west of Spetsbergen and headed north. The balloon was called Örnen (meaning “the eagle” in Swedish) and carried the three expedition members, Salomon August Andrée, Knut Fraenkel and Nils Strindberg. Their aim was to be the first to set foot on the North Pole.
As a subsequence of the contemporary nationalism during the 19th century and rivalry against Norway, which had quite some advantage in the run for the Polar Regions, Andrée’s expedition received plenty of support from scientists and sponsors back in Sweden. Andrée had participated in the Swedish expedition to Svalbard during the first International Polar year in 1882-1883. Another participant was Nils Ekholm, who was supposed to come with on the journey to the North Pole as a meteorologist, but during the summer before the departure Ekholm came to the conclusion that the balloon wasn’t dense enough and lost too much hydrogen. He demanded Andrée to solve the problem, but Andrée did not agree and as an outcome of their dispute Ekholm quit the expedition. His place was instead given to Knut Fraenkel.
Despite the warning signs Andrée followed his plan, which resulted in a lot of commotion during the first minutes after take-off. The draglines that were supposed to steer the balloon were tangled by friction, causing them to loosen from their mountings and the balloon itself. Weight was also decreased with the purpose to not lose height, but instead the balloon rose 700 meters. The low air pressure resulted in that even more hydrogen was lost and 64 hours after departure the balloon crashed on the pack ice. The expedition members began a difficult and almost three months long journey across the ice and finally set camp at Andréeneset on Kvitøya. Not until 33 years later the crew of the vessel Bratvaag found their remains and a variety of items labelled “Andrée Expedition". What actually happened on the island is still today a mystery…