Day 4 |
Aug 25, 2010

Kapp Lee and Brasvellbreen

By Sue Flood, General Naturalist


Coordinates: 77°55’N, 20°45’E
Weather: Sunny, light cloud cover, light-medium wind.
Air Temperature:8°C

Before breakfast I went up to the Bridge to help scan the shore at Kapp Lee for polar bears with bear guards Chris, Karolina and Lasse, and Robin, our Expedition Leader.

A scout boat was lowered to have a closer look for polar bears on shore, but none were found. Guests then came ashore to enjoy their first walrus sighting, where a group of around ten huge male walrus lay stacked together on the sandy beach. We enjoyed watching them as they grunted and groaned, and shuffled around in a large, smelly but photogenic heap! I talked to guests about walrus biology, and some of the interesting experiences of filming and photographing these huge Arctic seals for the BBC for The Blue Planet and Planet Earth series.

Meanwhile, Dr Colleen Batey, our archaeologist, and Christian Walter, our historian, led guests to view the buildings left by Norwegian trappers, one of which dates back to the early 1900s. They then progressed up towards Dolerittneset. Hans-Peter showed some of the rare Svalbard vegetation. From this vantage point it was possible to look over onto the settlement of the Pomor trappers who had come to Svalbard from northern Russia in the eighteenth century. They had hunted walrus, seals, polar bears and small whales. It was possible to view the remains of their brick fireplace in the remains of the log house.

During lunch we made our way towards Diskobukta, where we had hoped to make a landing. However, three polar bears were spotted close to the gorge behind the landing beach so we were forced to reconsider our plans. We viewed the bears from afar on the ship, as it was impossible to approach very close to shore due to the shallow waters, then continued our journey north.

In the afternoon Hans-Peter gave an informative introductory lecture entitled “From Plankton to Polar Bear – Food Webs in the Arctic”. Then, following afternoon tea, Robin Aiello explained how seabirds have adapted to their demanding life at sea.

We then had a Recap & Briefing about tomorrow’s activities, which was followed by yet another outstanding dinner by our Executive Chef Anne-Mari Cornelius and her team.

After dinner, the Expedition Team and brave guests wrapped up in their warmest clothes enjoyed a cruise along the spectacular glacier front of Brasvellbreen. This is the longest glacier in the northern hemisphere, extending for an incredible 190 kilometres. Kittiwakes fed in upwellings near the glacier front as we marvelled at the stunning colours in the ice and the dramatic sky. After braving the cold we were rewarded with a visit from the bar staff, carrying much-welcomed trays of hot chocolate!

A wonderful, action-packed day.