Day 10 |
Jul 12, 2011

St Johns Fjord and Alkhornet, Svalbard

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 78° 31’ N, 12° 57’ E
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 5° C
Humidity: 89%
Pressure: 1009 hPa
Wind: 5 km / h

An eerie and foggy but beautifully calm morning greeted us as we slowly cruised into St Johns Fjord. The mountains were shrouded in mist but we could still see clearly to the end of the fjord and view the magnificent glaciers that lined either side of it, some spilling out into the ocean, and others ending on land. Not a breath of wind was stirring the water, which was smooth as glass as we made our way to our anchor position and made ready to start our Zodiac landing to shore.

St Johns Fjord offered us the opportunity to walk and gain some elevation in an effort to get nice views of the surrounding glaciers and valleys. Many beautiful flowers were encountered on the way including bright pink cushions of moss campion, lovely pale yellow mountain avens, elegant white arctic bell-heather and the ever-present purple saxifrage. Some unusual species not previously seen were spotted as well such as the polar campion – a nodding purple-veined bladder shaped flower a bit like a small balloon which caused many of our guests to get down on their knees for better photographs of this pretty flower.

As the first to reach the top came over the crest of the hill, the fog came down, unfortunately obscuring our views of the glacier, but the thick fog and the views of the ship tiny and barely visible in the heavy clouds were beautiful. It was so still and peaceful and not a sound could be heard, only misty views of some mountain slopes peering out of the gaps in the fog from time to time showed us the landscape we were in. The people who stayed at the top enjoying the misty scenery were rewarded at the end by the fog clearing and revealing the landscape that the clouds had veiled over. A bit of sunshine shone through and the walk back down was pleasant and warm and everyone took time to admire the flowers and landscape around us at leisure.

As the distance between today’s destinations was a bit greater than on other days, our daily recap was scheduled for just after lunch. Today Kristine, our onboard photographer, showed us the video she had made of our voyage with many beautiful photos and movie clips.

Our afternoon’s destination was Alkhornet – a sharp rocky triangular mountain situated on the edge of a protected small fjord. It was quite a long zodiac ride from the ship to shore, but once there we enjoyed one of the nicest landings ever! A grassy slope led to the base of a slightly steeper incline just on front of the triangular peak of rock on which the seabirds circled and called. Reindeer rested on the grassy slopes showing us their beautiful velvety antlers and further up the slope some cows with small calves were seen as well. Some seals were seen just off the edge of the shore.

The mosses and grasses were soft underfoot and it was pleasant to walk over the tundra in the sunshine admiring the beautiful landscape. With mountains and glaciers in the background, cliffs covered in birds and grassy slopes with wildflowers in abundance it was an extremely beautiful place to explore at leisure. Some people had very close encounters with the reindeer, and other saw nesting skuas defending their eggs up close. Everyone enjoyed the landing site immensely and all too soon our time to depart arrived and we made our way back to the ship happy to have had such a spectacular last landing.