Day 11 |
Jun 18, 2011

Bear Island, en route to Svalbard

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 74º21’N, 19º10’W
Weather: Overcast with patches of clear sky
Air Temperature: 0.5C
Wind speed 12km/h Northerly
Pressure 1016 hPa

WOW, what a day!!! The day started out fairly slowly with everyone having a leisurely breakfast as we were at sea on our way to Bear Island, the first stop from Tromso to Svalbard. The temperature has dropped significantly from the 16 degrees Celsius we have been experiencing in the last few days to just above zero degrees now. This wasn’t going to spoil our day though.

Klaus, our enthusiastic ornithologist gave a fascinating lecture on bird migration, drawing on his work that he has done in Germany, ringing many of the wading birds which have impressive migrations. Then we had an opportunity to hand boots out to guests who wished to use boots from the ships supply, this didn’t take terribly long. We then noticed that we were about to reach the continental edge, where there is often upwelling of nutrients, making this a great area for spotting birds and whales. We were not disappointed, the birds were there in thousands, with Northern Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Guillemots the sea and sky was alive with birds.

Chris, our bear guard/naturalist and I were on the bridge when we noticed some Atlantic white sided Dolphins leaping out of the water a few hundred meters ahead of the ship. Conrad made an announcement and the guests came streaming out onto the outer decks. Well, our dolphins disappeared as quickly as they appeared but the whales then made an appearance. First we had Fin Whales, and then we had Humpback Whales, not just one or two but five or six. Fantastic!

After a quick lunch we then dressed in all our layers and went out in the Zodiacs for an hour and a half Zodiac cruise, exploring the sheer rock face of Bear Island, where thousands of kittiwakes and Guillemots nest. This is always one of the expedition teams favourite Zodiac cruises, and today the weather was just right for a brilliant tour. We had a very slight breeze, although the currents were a bit strong, giving us a reasonable swell, it didn’t interfere with our trip. We started off at a place where the rocks had fallen and we could get to spot some Puffins on the rocks, together with loads and loads of Guillemots just dotted all along the rock face. The Kittiwakes were calling with their typical Kittiwaaak shriek and the sky was almost black with birds circling the cliffs.

Our favourite part of the cruise is to take the Zodiacs through a narrow cave where the current is very strong, but we all made it safely through to the other side, without any problems. It is always a great thrill going though caves and this is one of the best.

Sadly, we had to come back to the ship as it was now after 7pm and our Recap and briefing had to be cancelled as it was so late, so we managed a quick and refreshing shower to warm up before heading off to dinner in the restaurant. Today was another one of those extraordinary days on the Silver Explorer.