Marine mammals and singing bird cliffs
Our guides are blogging from our expedition ships in Svalbard. Read more about a fantastic day with exciting outings from the trip 2-12 July with Sea Endurance.
July 4th 2017 - Bjørnfjorden, Virgohamna & Smeerenburg
What a day! Our morning began as we sailed in to Bjørnfjorden and dropped anchor in front of the Smeerenburg glacier. After breakfast we headed out in the Zodiacs for a closer look at the ice and the wildlife associated with it. The glacier is very active and we witnessed several calvings. Eider ducks, black guillemot, glaucous gulls, kittiwakes, Arctic and great skuas were seen and photographed.
We went back on board to warm ourselves up and enjoy a fascinating talk from David about Andrée and his doomed balloon flight that set off from Virgohamna in 1897, before we got the chance to set foot at the same site in the afternoon. We combined landing on Danskøya with a landing at Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya, a Dutch whaling station in the 17th Century. So the afternoon was filled with history and walruses, as we found a snorting, scratching heap of these fantastic animals at Smeerenburg. It was wonderful to find the wildlife reclaiming the site of exploitation; the walruses were hauled out right next to a blubber oven.
We had one final treat after dinner. As we cruised between the islands in the North West corner of Svalbard and visited the Svitjod glacier in Fuglefjord and we were just about to go to bed when the call we had all hoped for came - polar bears! Mother and cub! Quickly the Zodiacs were in the water and we watched as if we were enchanted when the mother nursed the first year cub who played and became bold whilst the mother tried to go back to sleep. What a day!
July 7th 2017 - Hornsund, Burgerbukta & Gnålodden
This morning found Sea Endurance in the South West fjord of Hornsund, famous for its glaciers and towering mountain peaks. We began our exploration with an extended Zodiac cruise in East Burgerbukta and found a bearded seal lying on an ice floe. Some saw puffins, an Ivory gull and long-tailed duck, and we all came close to black guillemots and kittiwakes resting on icebergs as we approached the dramatic glacier. The crackle of ice and the occasional sound of a rifle shot from the calving glacier broke the silence.
We ventured further in to Hornsund and had a magical meeting with a large pod of Beluga whales. Their white backs were breaking the surface as they kept themselves close to the coast line. The marine mammal extravaganza continued with a humpback whale right in front of us, showing its white and black patterned tail.
We then landed at Gnålodden – a spectacular setting for a small trappers hut, once used by Wanny Wolstad. The high cliff is home to countless of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots, and their noise gives the place its name. There was a chance to walk up the slope to have a closer look at the birds and a lucky sighting of a blue Arctic fox, or stay near the shore to see the Pomore remains and whaler’s grave.
What another amazing day in Svalbard it had been.
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.