Day 10 |
Aug 11, 2010

14th of July Glacier, Svalbard; at sea

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 79°07,5` N, 11° 48,9`E
Weather: cloudy with sunshine between
Air Temperature: 4 C

A partly cloudy sky and fresh air welcomed the Prince Albert II as we anchored in the Krossfjorden in front of the 14th of July Glacier. Due to the glacier, the bird cliffs and the vegetation found here, this site is considered of one of the most scenic landscapes in the Svalbard archipelago.

At 7.30 am our scout boats were sent out to check the area and declare it Polar Bear free. After some failed landings and evacuations due to Polar Bears on this cruise, everyone on board was relieved when the message came in through the radios that the site is ok, which means Polar Bear free. All shore gear was taken on land and soon afterwards the embarkations of the guests took place.

We offered two walks for our guests. One was leading to and up the 14th of July Glacier and the other was going over to the bird cliffs and the botanical area. Guests had enough time to do both walks without rush.

My colleagues told me that the scenery was very dramatic from the geological point of view. Also they had luck as there was an Arctic Fox passing by and sniffing bags and the flags that they put up to show the way up to the glacier. I think our guests really enjoyed staying on a glacier as it also was the first time for some of them.

On the other hand there was this really interesting walk to the botanical site. First in the way over to the bird cliffs, you have this beautiful tundra vegetation with the Tufted Saxifrage, Purple Saxifrage and the Moss Campion. Getting closer to the area where the bird cliffs are, the vegetation becomes even lusher due to the fertilization from the bird cliffs above and good drainage of water. So further up the slope one finds the Scurvy Grass and Mountain Sorrel and then there is a nice so-called “hanging garden” with exuberant moss vegetation, five different species of Saxifrage, Arctic Mouse Ear, Black Fleabane and Polar Dandelion. So from the botanical point of view, the site is a real treasure.

Also the fauna was quite impressive as we were able to see two Arctic Foxes, one the normal morph and one the so-called blue morph. It was wonderful to observe them running along the cliffs with ease and searching for food. The grey-brown summer morph came very close to the observation site and our guests took a lot of good pictures of him.

On the bird cliff there was still a lot of activity going on and so you were able to observe Kittywakes, Guillemots, Glaucous Gulls and even Puffins flying around. They had their nesting sites on cliffs down near the beach. On the slope, Pink-footed Gees and Barnacle Gees were feeding between the grasses. Sometime the Arctic Fox tried to catch one of them but never succeeded. A Snow Bunting was feeding his chick right by the small lagoon of fresh water near to our viewing point. From this activity and from the vegetation, most of the plants already had their fruits and were not flowering anymore; one could tell easily that autumn was coming to Svalbard. Around midday the sun was coming through the clouds and made it an unforgettable autumn day at the 14th of July Glacier.

In the afternoon our onboard photographer Kristine Hannon presented her DVD on the voyage in The Theater. It was again an excellent work and a beautiful memory of voyage 7015 from Tromso up to this fascinating archipelago in the arctic.

In the evening, dinner was served in The Restaurant, and as always it was the culinary highlight of cruising on board the Prince Albert II.