Day 3 |
Aug 04, 2010

Bear Island, Svalbard

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 74°21´22´´N, 19°10´05´´E

Weather: overcast

Air Temperature: 10 C

From 6.30 on the Expedition Team had “Whale Watch” on the Bridge, looking out for these beautiful marine mammals. Before I started my watch I had a little breakfast in the Observation Lounge. Right at the moment when I entered the Bridge, a group of Whitesided Dolphins passed the Prince Albert II. So, eager to see more whales, we kept on looking and later this effort had a reward.

At 9.45 the mandatory AECO briefing took place in The Theater. But it didn’t last very long because suddenly humpback whales were in front of our bow. The briefing was interrupted and all our guests went out to see the mother with her calf. They were swimming just before the ship.

After this highlight, the AECO briefing was continued. A little later, the guests were invited to the lecture of my colleague Colleen Batey on “Scandinavia and the Vikings”. This lecture gave a brief overview of the Viking Age in Scandinavia.

On time, the Prince Albert II was anchoring in the Sorhamna Bay of Bear Island. The weather was good for Bear Island, which means that there is no rain and no fog and from the ship our guests already could see the dramatic scenery of this place.

Half an hour later, all Zodiacs were ready and we could start the excursions. Going along the cliffs is really one of the most spectacular views up here in the north. Although there was a certain swell, the guests enjoyed this Zodiac ride that brought them first into limestone caves washed out by the action of the waves over thousands of years and then took them along the cliffs were innumerous birds are nesting. The most common are Brünnichs Guillemot, Common Guillemot and Kittiwake. Additionally we could also observe Black Guillemots, Glaucous Gull, Northern Fulmar, Great Black Back Gull and some individual Atlantic Puffins. Just when we were going around a corner with our Zodiacs there was a pair of Glaucous Gulls sitting on a rock outcrop with their two chicks. Both chicks still with their juvenile down feathers and waiting that the parents will feed them. Looking on a nearby beach I pointed out to our guests what the Glaucous Gulls are mainly feeding on: Kittiwakes. On the beach there was a pair of Gulls feeding on the cadaver of a Kittiwake.

Northern Fulmars were always accompanying the Zodiac and it was interesting to watch them gliding over the sea surface. Also interesting is that you can find the two morphs of Northern Fulmar in this area. One is the white morph and the other one is the brown morph, which, as the Prince Albert II is going, further north, becomes more abundant than the white morph. Some of the Common Guillemots are showing their bridal morph with a white stripe above the eye and white eye rings.

In one bay just near the most southern tip of the island, a shipwreck is stranded on the shore beneath the cliffs. It is a Russian cargo ship that got stranded last year in March due to irresponsibility from the captain and crew. The scenery has a little kind of magic seeing the shipwreck, the tall cliffs and the wave crashing against them. Through a tunnel in the rocks the Zodiac was crossing to another bay with such dramatic scenery that you were reminded of the film Jurassic Park. Steep cliffs, birds everywhere, fog hanging on the top of the cliffs and waterfalls with crystal clear water coming down the walls – this is Bear Island, one of the most spectacular Zodiac tours up here in the Arctic.

In the evening, Captain Alexander Golubev gave his Welcome Cocktail Party and afterwards I enjoyed a delicious dinner with our guests in The Restaurant.