Day 9 |
Aug 20, 2010

Bear Island, Svalbard at sea in the afternoon

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 74°21´22´´N, 19°10´05´´E
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: 6 C

On time, 7.00 in the morning, the Prince Albert II was anchoring in the Sorhamna Bay of Bear Island. The weather was good, which for Bear Island 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. This time the swell was not so big and our guests enjoyed the Zodiac tour 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 where innumerous birds are nesting. At this time of the year all Brünnichs and Common Guillemot had left their breeding site and went out to the open ocean. The most common bird was the Kittiwake, with some of their youngsters still sitting on their nest and pledging for food. On the other hand, the Kittiwake now was the most common prey for the Glaucous Gull, Great Skua and Great Black Back Gull. All over the beaches where the Zodiacs drove along you could see the cadavers of dead Kittiwakes and young Glaucous Gulls feeding on them. Still the Northern Fulmar was around the island and just across the bay where the Prince Albert II was anchored there was a colony of Atlantic Puffins on the cliffs.

Northern Fulmars were always accompanying the Zodiacs 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 further north becomes more abundant than the white morph.

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 waves crashing against them. Through a tunnel in the rocks the Zodiac was crossing to another bay with such dramatic scenery that I was reminded of the film “Jurassic Park”. Going around the corner on the very southern end of the island suddenly a rock needle, called Sylen, 80m high and around 100m offshore rises out of the water, giving to our guests another spectacular view of this island. 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 afternoon, the vessel was at sea and after lunch as we were sailing south, my colleagues Colleen Batey and Juan Carlos Restrepo presented their lectures in The Theatre. Colleen talked about the Vikings and Juan about plate tectonics. The first lecture gave a brief overview of the Viking Age in Scandinavia, the second one an overview of the history of our planet. Unfortunately the Expedition Team didn’t observe any whales this afternoon.

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