Moon-walkers and tooth-walkers
PolarQuest’s guides are blogging from M/S Quest. Below you can read an excerpt from the expedition on board Sea Endurace, the 15th – 25th August 2015.
17th August 2015
Moon-walkers and Tooth-walkers – Minnaodden, Storfjorden, Kap Lee
We decided to explore Minnaodden on the east coast of Spitsbergen, where none of us had been before. Truly an expedition in unknown land! It appeared that a small glacier had retreated not long ago and left a chaotic landscape of pushed-up heaps of boulders and gravel, and braiding streams in a foggy backdrop made us feel like walking in a moon landscape. Some boulders on the beach are cracked in neat slices by the extreme changes in temperature have their own beauty and lie here undisturbed. A good opportunity for Martin to tell us more about rocks and the geology of Svalbard during the afternoon lecture while sailing across the Storfjorden.
After dinner we landed at Kap Lee on Edgeøya. A group of curious male walruses await us in the water. Inuit call them tooth walkers in reference to their habit to use their tusks to pull themselves up onto ice flows to rest. On the beach we slowly creep up to the rest of the herd which was resting there. Most of us are turning into avid walrus-fans! Further down, the beach is riddled with walrus skeletons, hunted for their blubber to light up the streets of Europe’s big cities and to make candles and soap in the 17th and 18th century. Fortunately the hunting of walrus ceased in 1953 and since then, walrus is making a slow but steady come-back into Svalbard waters. Kap Lee was also the home base for the 1968/69 Netherlands wintering expedition which studied polar bears. Alarmed by dwindling polar numbers, that winter surveys were organised throughout the Arctic to document the status of polar bears. This work contributed to the 1973 Polar Bear Agreement between all polar bear nations which stopped commercial hunting and thus helped to give this magnificent animal a better future. Behind the station, we encounter two grazing Svalbard reindeer nearby. Sturdy animals which are able to survive the harsh Arctic winters.
While boarding the Zodiacs back to Sea Endurance, all of a sudden the fog lifted, revealing the nearby vegetated cliffs in spectacular autumn colours in the low-hanging midnight sun. We are all taken aback by the beauty of this place and fell asleep soon after we return to the ship.
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.