Day 5 |
Aug 16, 2010

Svalbard, Palanderbukta, Alkefjellet and Bråsvellbreen

By Dr Colleen Batey, Archaeologist

Co-ordinates: 79°14’N – 022°58’E
Weather: Strong winds and low cloud
Air temperature: 0-6°C

A full day of expedition cruising began with considerable rocking of the vessel as it became clear our day was to be marked by winds gusting between 35 and 85 k/hr! It was evident to all that our planned landing at Palanderbukta, located on the southwest corner of Nordaustlandet, in Gustav Adolf Land, immediately to the east of Hinlopenstretet, could not be achieved as the waves and wind gusts did not allow for the deployment of the scout Zodiac!!

So Plan B came into action, and I gave a lecture on the Viking Age use of the natural resources of the Arctic region, as the vessel moved gradually back westwards to the west side of Hinlopenstraet.

Just before lunch we arrived at the towering cliffs of Alkefjellet – The Auk Crags. Each ledge was packed with 60,000 black and white guillemots, mostly Brünnich’s, with the distinctive white flash at the beak. Whirling masses soared back and forth and in the sea rafts of male birds guarded the chicks. Miraculously the Captain held the Prince Albert II at a stable angle to the cliffs, to allow a close view of the birds on their narrow ledges. The wind was bitingly cold, and the deck once more becoming icy, but many ventured out to see the amazing spectacle.

During the afternoon, we continued to sail south and eastward, seeking any shelter that was available. A whisky tasting seemed apt in the temperatures and this was followed by a trivia quiz. All hope fading of an expedition stop this day, we watched in awe as the massive Bråsvellbreen ice edge passed, seemingly endlessly... This is the largest accessible ice edge in the Northern Hemisphere, some 193km in length. Its glistening 20-30m height punctuated with waterfalls, pushed sideways by the gusts.

Recap & Briefing followed as we heard of the potential for the coming day, and we all hoped that the passing low would move away to allow us to resume our expeditionary activities.