Day 4 |
Aug 15, 2010

Ice cruising, Svalbard, Norway 

By Christian Walter, Historian

Co-ordinates: 80° 55’ 33” North, 018° 37’ 07” East Noon position
Weather: windy and cloudy
Air Temperature: 4,9C
Pressure: 1007 hpa
Wind: variable, 15-38,5 kmh

During the night we had been on a northeasterly course looking for the ice, which, according to the ice-chart, would be found north of 80°N. During breakfast, Captain Golubev turned the ship into the wind and at 09:00 a.m. we were doing 10 knots heading north. The ice was getting thicker and eventually the Prince Albert II had to push some floes aside or even break them on her way.

Harp seals were seen on a regular basis, although they never stayed around. At 09:30 a.m. we were very close to the furthest north the Prince Albert II had been on former voyages.

The foredeck was open, but the wind coming straight onto the ship caused a chilling experience. The Observation Lounge seemed like a good place to be; you not only could enjoy the view, but also coffee or tea until 10:00 a.m.

Although a Polar Plunge had been anticipated this morning, the temperature and wind-chill factor spoke against it. Instead of the Polar Plunge, some of our guests decided to do a Polar Jacuzzi – who else could claim to have been in a Jacuzzi at 81ºNorth?

After reaching 81° 04’ 06” North and 018° 38’ 54” East, the ship turned back around and Robin, our Expedition Leader, opted for a lecture about polar bears. Since we had seen polar bears at Magdalena Fjord and Sallyhamna, it seemed the obvious choice to enhance our knowledge about these majestic creatures of the Arctic. Robin Aiello gave her talk, ending with a slide explaining why polar bears are not found in Antarctica: penguins are too much of a nuisance! While “Arctic” actually refers to “bear” (from the Greek “arctos”), “Ant-Arctica” therefore translates as “No Bears” she stated.

A delicious lunch was enjoyed while we were heading for our afternoon-stop at Lagøya, northwest of Nordaustlandet. The idea had been to go ashore looking for walrus, but the wind and wave action intervened. It was too choppy to guarantee a safe disembarkation onto the Zodiacs, and obviously the same would have applied for embarkation on our way back. Captain Golubev and Expedition Leader Robin decided to continue on our way for tomorrow’s stop at Storøya.

The afternoon offered two talks: first Hans-Peter was informing us about the food chain in the Arctic, and then Sue gave a talk about life as a producer. Her background information about how documentaries were filmed, i.e. how long one had to prepare, what it took to be able to film at extreme locations under extreme conditions, and her comments on some of the difficulties she (and her teams) encountered were quite fascinating. This certainly gave another dimension to the films we can enjoy on our onboard entertainment system.

Barely had Sue finished when we noticed a marked inclination of our ship. Captain Golubev and Expedition Leader Robin had decided that since the weather conditions further east were not as good as wished, and as the northerly wind that had accompanied us all day was going to stay with us, making landings at Storøya and Kvitoøya near impossible, it would be better to turn around and see some of the sites in or near the more-protected Hinlopen Strait.

Robin informed us over the PA system that everything would be explained during recap. At recap Robin Aiello talked about the Arctic Tern, Sue about clothing of whalers, and Hans-Peter about plant adaptation in the Arctic, before Robin (the Expedition Leader) started to explain the changes to our program, and the proposed landings of our cruise for tomorrow.

Since we were going to have a morning, afternoon and evening activity, Robin suggested going to bed early today! Another expedition day was coming to an end…