Read an excerpt of PolarQuests trip from Bergen to Svalbard on board M/S Stockholm.
Bear Island – Friday 20th May
Days like this are what we dream of! Anchored in the delightful bay of Sørhamna, we set off in Zodiacs in perfect conditions. The skies were full of fulmars and kittiwakes, but it was the guillemots, mostly Common, but also a proportion of Brúnnich’s, only found in the Arctic, which really astonished us. The sea was black with them, and when we switched off our engines they would raft all around us. This south-east corner of Bear Island is fringed with cliffs, up to 400 metres high, full of ledges that were thronged with nesting seabirds. The dolorite cliffs were peppered with caves and arches, and the unusually calm sea allowed us to investigate every one of them.
After lunch we departed by Zodiac again for a beach landing at Walrus Bay, pausing only to scoot through one more arch. A Norwegian whaling station had briefly operated here from 1905 to 1908, and the remains were visible all around. A walk across the tundra took us to the top of the cliffs overlooking Sørhamna and our little ship down below. The Arctic tundra was just starting to burst into flower, and the tiny Purple saxifrage bloomed everywhere. As we sailed away, the presence of whales, indicated by their blows, drew us northwards towards Svalbard.
South of Svalbard - Saturday 21th May
We woke this morning to find ourselves in the sea ice just to the south of Svalbard! It was fascinating to stand on deck and watch the ship plough her way undaunted through the pack ice. Adam climbed to the crow’s nest and spent most of the day on lookout for Arctic wildlife. And we were not disappointed. First it was a Bearded seal, lying on an ice floe with her pup, a rare enough sight, but we were fortunate enough to see three such pairs as we wandered the ice tongue. A beautiful striped iceberg was our most north-easterly point, but as we turned south-west again, there was a large male walrus with long impressive ivory tusks hauled out on some ice.
The afternoon was spent scouting again, and here the most astonishing sight met our eyes – 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. But there are always predators, and now we saw our first Polar bear, who actually took several of the seals in front of our eyes. A thrilling and unforgettable day in the high Arctic.
Since 1999, we have taken travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 50 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice.
Travelling through the stunning Norwegian coastal landscape on a small expedition cruise ship is simply hard to beat. Lofoten islands welcome with picturesque fishing villages, squeezed between soaring mountains and quiet fjords. In wintertime Tromsø offers magnificent sceneries over dramatic landscapes and great chances to spot both orcas and humpback whales. If we’re lucky we will also see the magical Northern Lights dancing in the sky. Join us on an unforgettable cruise!