Images and film clips from an unforgettable PolarQuest year
Another exciting PolarQuest year draws to a close. As always, it has been a year full of adventures to many remote corners of the world. We have travelled through Svalbard’s untamed wilderness, India’s beautiful national parks and Sri Lanka’s scenic highlands. We have encountered curious king penguins in South Georgia, gigantic tortoises in Galapagos and colourful puffins in the Hebrides. We have marvelled at Norway’s spectacular coastline, Mongolia’s open steppes and the huge icebergs in Northeast Greenland.
Please follow the link below to enjoy a slideshow summarising this adventurous year.
27th May, 2017 Location: Sørkapp Coordinates: 76˚35 'N, 17˚60' E Weather: -2 ˚C, 1030 Bar, cloudy, wind from N, 4 Beaufort
In three directions, the pack ice broadens. On an ice floe two big seals pass by, a mother with her pup. We are surrounded by sparkling pack ice and can’t wait to get out. Soon we cross the ice edge, surrounded by many different kinds of ice: pack ice, ice floes, pressure ridges and icebergs. The silence is overwhelming. As the sky darkening in the horizon, we become aware of how small we actually are, and this feeling filling us with awe. Of course it is cold, but nothing but the beauty of the surroundings matter anymore.
28th May, 2017 Location: Akseløya, Gåsbenodden Coordinates: 77˚40 'N, 14˚45' E Weather: -0 ˚C, 1032 Bar, clear sky, wind from NE, 3 Beaufort
After breakfast in the Van Keulenfjord we visited Ahlstrandodden. A landing in Bamsebybukten offered, among other things, 200 million years old fossils, mountain peaks, ptarmigans, an Arctic fox and Svalbard reindeers. Back on board, Cecilia held a lecture on white-headed geese and their various challenges, but she was suddenly interrupt by a... polar bear! At the end of the Van Mijenfjord, on the fast ice, we could see a polar bear with two cubs! We followed her hunt for seals and the interaction between the three for the rest of the evening, with a break for Ivory gull and belugas only. What else can we call what we experience here, other than just Arctic magic?
Far into Hornsund we suddenly see big tracks in the snow from the bridge. We follow the trails for a couple of kilometres towards Samarinvågen and as we reach the fjord ice we see a polar bear on the slope. We quickly jump in to our Zodiacs and on our way towards the bear we see that it's not just one bear, but two! We approach slowly and watch for a long time when the bear eats the remains of a prey, a seal. After a while, one of the bears was curious enough to follow us along the ice.
After lunch, several of the travellers choose to take a cool swim amongst the ice floes. The water measured minus 1.8 degrees, but it didn’t stop them! The sun was shining and everyone was happy.
The world's northernmost post office , a calving glacier and curious walruses
During lunch the ship moved further into the Kongsfjord. Before we jumped into the Zodiacs everyone dressed warmly for a longer cruise along Kongsbreen. It became an exciting and magical one amonst big blue icebergs, bearded seals on ice floes, some harbour seals on a small, lone rock and an Arctic fox that ran back and forth. PolarQuests guides are blogging from the ship Sea Endurance. Here you will find an excerpt from the trip on 17-25 May 2017.
Friday started with a guided walk in Ny Ålesund. We divided ourselves into two smaller groups and went through the small community that hosts researchers from all over the world. We visited the shop to buy souvenirs and to send letters and postcards at the world's northernmost post office.
During lunch, the ship moved further into the Kongsfjord. Before we jumped in the Zodiaces, everyone warmly dressed for a longer cruise along Kongsbreen. It became an exciting and magical cruise amongst big blue icebergs, bearded seals on ice floes, some harbour seals on a small, lone rock and an Arctic fox that ran back and forth under a cliff where kittiwakes had gathered to nest. During dinner, which was incredibly good, the hot topic was the calving glacier and the bearded seal with a pup.
20th of May 2017
After a cloudy day, we woke up to the perfect view in the Magdalene fjord. Inside the fjord, the water was mirror-like and the sun shone over the towering peaks and the glaciers between them. We saw some walruses in the water and decided to have a closer look at these magnificent animals. We jumped into the Zodiacs and once on spot, we saw that there were dozens of male walruses in the snow. We made a quick decision to make a landing to get even closer. After quite some time together with these grand gentlemen we were starting to think about heading back, but right then, two more walruses came out of the water and curiously looked at us before one decided to climb up to his friends just in front of us.
Woken up in the middle of the night we could see the southern cliffs of Bear Island. As the forecast had promised the wind speed had picked up and we were deciding to try for a landing at the southwestern side of the island, boarding our Zodiac at 2.45 am. Two possible landing sites proved too rough once we gave them a closer look, but at our third location we were finally succeeding and had the chance for an extended walk on this remote place. Vast snowfields showed us that spring time was yet to come, still, astonishing numbers of different geese, fulmars, common eiders and kittiwakes were already present in the vicinity. Heading back to the M/S Stockholm we were cold but happy to have landed at this unbelievable remote place.
We moved on the Western coast of Bjørnøya and headed for the North in order to find the pack ice of the North and leeside from the wind. Just after lunch we arrived in the ice between Bjørnøya and Spitsbergen, and here we were spotting hundreds and hundreds of harp seals lying on ice floes with their young pups. They congregate in huge numbers to give birth, but spend only about two weeks with their young before they all disperse again – a privilege to see this brief moment. We spent the whole afternoon and evening long the ice edge scouting for more wildlife and finally parked our vessel in the ice with the engine turned off.
On the west coast of Lewis, we dropped anchor in the sheltered waters of Loch Carloway. From there a short walk took us to the broch, an Iron Age tower built by some Celtic chieftain more than 2000 years ago, today dominating a beautiful crofting landscape dotted with blackhouse ruins.
Some took the opportunity for a Zodiac ride in the loch, and were thrilled to discover, as well as the usual gulls and shags, a magnificent White-tailed Sea eagle soaring high above the water and swooping down to land nearby.
After lunch, in Hebridean sunshine we visited the standing stones of Calanais, erected by Neolithic farmers almost 5000 years ago, creating a remarkable and extensive ritual landscape. All this time the stones have stood proudly on their ridge overlooking Loch Roag and the distant hills which are said to resemble the shape of a sleeping ‘earth-goddess’ figure. Afterwards some of us hiked over the moorland to two more stone circles in the Calanais group, each one telling something of the remarkable culture of the first settlers of the island
Wednesday 19 April - Staffa - Iona
In early morning we travelled to the Island of Staffa. Fingal’s cave is the most famous feature of this tiny island, immortalised in Mendolssohn’s Hebridean Overture, with its amazing basaltic columns and vaulted roof. We were fortunate to experience it by boat and by foot. Then, rambling on the island’s plateau, we watched eagerly for the first puffins arriving in the waters below, along with Black guillemots, eider ducks, shags and gannets.
Iona was another beautiful island, with fertile soils and rich clear waters. In 563 AD St Columba came from Ireland and founded a monastery here that would spread the new religion far beyond the borders of Scotland. The glorious 1300-year-old stone high crosses are evidence of centuries of early Celtic monasticism there. Although the Vikings ravaged Iona several times, it continued to be a place of national importance where many kings and clan chiefs were buried. The buildings standing today mostly date from around 1200, when the Lords of the Isles founded a Benedictine monastery and an Augustinian nunnery.