Blue glaciers and incredible wildlife
After boarding M/S Sjøveien, our home for the next 10 days, we started sailing out from Longyearbyen. Later in the evening, we passed Alkehornet, providing us with the opportunity to observe various auk birds, including puffins and Brünnich’s Guillemots! Most of us turned in early, after all the impressions of our first day, to rest up for the adventures that lay ahead.
We began with an easy landing in Ny-Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on our planet. This place is dedicated to science and research. Fortunately, we had the chance to observe reindeer, numerous bird species, and a large pod of harbor seals resting on a nearby beach – there must have been nearly a hundred of them!
After leaving the pier we headed straight North to the other side of the bay for scouting. In less than 10 minutes, we spotted a small yellow dot behind a rock. As we approached, it became clear that it was indeed a polar bear, fast asleep. We stayed there for nearly 2 hours, but this was a lethargic female, and she didn't budge. Nonetheless, it marked our first bear sighting of the voyage!
The destination for the afternoon was Lilliehöökbreen, one of the largest active glaciers on Svalbard today. Within just an hour of our arrival, the fjord started to clog up with brash ice. The glacier had been active, calving immense amounts of glacier ice into the fjord.
We embarked on a Zodiac cruise and enjoyed the blue colours and the sounds all around us, from the thunderous calvings to the gentle popping of gas bubbles escaping the glacier ice. Right after returning to the ship, we had a delightful encounter with a bearded seal relaxing on a chunk of ice
We anchored up at Virgohamna early next morning. After a good breakfast we lowered our Zodiacs. Our first destination was Virgohamna, known for its famous (yet unsuccessful) Swedish history. We then continued to Smeerenburg to observe walruses. Fortunately, the walruses were still there, even though we were nearing the end of the season. In fact, they were quite active! We spent a couple of hours on land, observing them and exploring the cultural remains from the whaling era, nearly 400 years ago. Additionally, we spotted a minke whale along the shoreline!
When we scouted the shoreline this morning, we noticed a significant amount of trash on the beach at Kapp Pike, just to the east of Smeerenburg. So we decided to use the last hour before heading back to the boat, to clean up this beach. It turned out to be a more substantial project than we initially thought, as the volume of trash far exceeded our expectations. Nevertheless, we unzipped our jackets and worked diligently, managing to fill a whopping eight 100-liter bags! Can’t say anything else then a massive Thank you to those who joined us in this cleanup effort. While we may not have changed the world, right here on this beach, we made all the difference."
In the evening, we went for a Zodiac cruise to Fuglefjorden. Here, we spent a good amount of time in front of the Svitjod Glacier. Just silence, listening to the glacier's movements and calvings. At 09:10 in the evening, we gathered on the outer deck to raise a toast for crossing 80 degrees North! The night owls could enjoy more sightings of walruses as we in the late evening sailed around an island called Moffen, a nature reserve.
Please note: We always follow strict wildlife guidelines to ensure that we do not cause any disturbance.
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.