Day 2 |
Aug 03, 2011

14th July Glacier, Krossfjord, West Coast, Spitsbergen, Svalbard

By Peter W. Damisch – Historian, General Naturalist, Cartographer & Polar Bear Guard


Co-ordinates: 79o 02’ S, 011o 21’ E
Weather: Intermittent Sun & Clouds in this land of the midnight sun
Air Temperature: 7o C / 44 o F
Pressure: 1015 HPa
Wind: 30 km / hour

As usual on the Silver Explorer we had a very exciting and busy day. The first full day at sea is always quite fun and enjoyable with everyone getting to know one another. In addition, many people have great questions about upcoming events as well as what we hope to see and experience during the upcoming voyage. For myself, I also enjoyed meeting close to one dozen couples who have previously sailed on board the Silver Explorer, mostly to the Antarctic. It’s wonderful to catch up with old friends and find out how everyone has been doing. Not surprisingly, many people have been sailing in many other locations around the world with Silversea Cruises.

First up for the day was the optional distribution of “gum” or rubber boots or “Wellington’s”. Internationally these important items may have different nicknames but they all fulfill the same function. Many guests bring their own to ensure a perfect fit. However, Silver Explorer also carries a limited number of boots available for use by our guests. Once again I have the wonderful opportunity to chat with guests from more than one dozen countries as we try to fit a pair of boots that will fit snugly and warmly during our upcoming operations on shore as well as on Zodiac cruises.

Next up was a combination AECO and destination briefing given by Robin West, our Expedition Leader. AECO is the organization that regulates and establishes guidelines for responsible and environmentally friendly tourism in the Arctic. Of course Silversea is a fundamental member and this important, mandatory presentation ensures that everyone is familiar with the type of safe operation that we wish to conduct while in the high north of the Arctic, a location where life thrives but is very fragile and subject to potential disturbance.

The destination briefing is also a daily occurrence such that we can fully inform everyone on board about the planned events for later on in the day and for tomorrow. Of course Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate and, at times, the plans can change. However, this is not often the case and such a presentation also presents the chance for guests to ask questions about the conditions expected for our next explorative operation off of the ship.

Another favorite event of mine was next on the daily agenda – the traditional ‘First Timers Reception’. The rest of the Expedition Team and I can meet individuals at this gathering who are sailing for the first time with Silversea. It is always quite fascinating for me to receive some insight as to how everyone decided on this particular location, itinerary and ship. I also enjoy the ability to learn about people’s hometowns as well as to be able address questions about what type of outstanding polar experiences lie ahead over the next 10 days or so.

Soon enough it was time to lower our Zodiacs and prepare for the first landing of the cruise. It occurred at a super location, the 14th of July Glacier, named by a French Expedition after Bastille Day. This site has a wonderful combination of options to consider and there was plenty of time for everyone to pursue all primary activities. One popular hike takes guests to the top of the glacier. Of course, Juan and Franz, our on board Geologists, have been sent ahead to assess the safety and condition of the glacier. In this case, everything checked out just fine and those intrepid hikers who wanted to do just a bit of walking up a lateral moraine were rewarded by a spectacular view of the heavily crevassed glacier as well as a wonderful overview of the bay where the Silver Explorer was anchored.

Another option took guests towards a unique area of Arctic plant life and nearby bird cliffs. Here Hans-Peter, our resident botanist, and Franz, the ship’s ornithological expert, were available to provide interpretation regarding the special niches carved out of this high Arctic environment for life to exist. Not only are plants and animals well adapted to these challenging conditions but thrive while in competition for scarce resources.

Unusually, I remained on board to provide an historical presentation regarding the Andree Expeditions of 1896 and 1897. This Swedish explorer attempted to reach the North Pole via a leaking hydrogen balloon! The timing of this lecture was important, as the Silver Explorer has been granted a rarely issued special permit to visit the launching site of this and other expeditions. This is a nearly one-of-a-kind opportunity and the Expedition Team wanted to provide some background on the location today before our intended visit tomorrow. It’s a great story of drive and determination with a group that floated over the horizon, then disappeared for 33 years until the remains of their last camp were discovered by accident and 93 photographs were recovered from cameras left on the ice. As planned, I was able to give the presentation twice in the afternoon such that everyone had the opportunity to attend while the other half of our inquisitive group was exploring ashore.

The busy day finished with Captain Golubev’s Welcome Aboard Reception. Once again I had the pleasure of meeting new friends and catching up with old acquaintances from prior voyages. All in all it was a very busy day that was also great fun!



Tag 2 | 3 August 2011 | Auf See und 14. Juli-Gletscher
Franz Gingele, Geologe

Koordinaten: N 79º 07.32’, E 011º 49.0’
Wetter: leicht bedeckt
Lufttemperatur: 7ºC
Luftdruck: 1021 hPa
Wind: 20 kn

Nach dem langen Anreisetag gestern konnten wir unsere erste Nacht an Bord nutzen um einmal richtig auszuschlafen. Ein nur leichter Seegang wiegte uns in den Schlaf und das Frühstück um 8 Uhr morgens war gut besucht. Um 10 Uhr konnten diejenigen, die keine eigenen Gummistiefel mitgebracht hatten sich ein passendes Paar beim Expeditionsteam ausleihen. Eine Einführung in die Verhaltensregeln in der Arktis, das AECO-briefing, folgte um 10:30 Uhr. Diese Regeln dienen sowohl zum Schutz der Umwelt als auch zu unserer eigenen Sicherheit.

Nach dem Mittagessen wurde es Ernst: unsere erste Anlandung in Spitzbergen stand auf dem Programm. Die Silver Explorer ankerte im nordwestlichen Teil Spitzbergens in einem kleinen Seitenarm des Krossfjords. Hier mündet der 14. Juli-Gletscher ins Meer. Er wurde von einer französischen Expedition nach ihrem Nationalfeiertag benannt. Es ist etwas Wind aufgekommen als wir die Zodiacs zu Wasser lassen, aber die ersten beiden Bootsgruppen kommen trotzdem einigermassen trocken ans Ufer. Während zwei Gruppen an Land sind können die anderen beiden sich einen Vortrag unseres Historikers Peter anhören, der die spannende Geschichte des Versuchs einer Ballonfahrt zum Nordpol zum Besten gibt. Eine gute und notwendige Vorbereitung für die morgen geplanten Anlandungen.

An Land besteht die Möglichkeit zu einer kleinen Vogelklippe zu spazieren oder eine etwas längere Wanderung in die andere Richtung auf den 14. Juli-Gletscher zu unternehmen. An beiden Enden sorgen unsere Bärenwächter für unsere Sicherheit. Der Weg zum Gletscher führt zunächst leicht am Strand entlang und dann etwas unebener über die linke Seitenmoräne hinauf aufs Eis. Von hier hat man einen wunderschönen Blick über den Gletscher auf die umliegenden Berge und hinaus auf den Fjord zu unserer Silver Explorer.

Auf dem Weg zurück haben wir etwas mehr Musse auf die Vogelwelt zu achten und können einige Dreizehenmöwen, einen jungen Papageientaucher und zwei Schmarotzerraubmöwen beobachten. Auf der Rückfahrt zum Schiff müssen wir feststellen, dass der Wind noch weiter aufgefrischt hat und es lässt sich nicht vermeiden, dass einige Spritzer ins Boot schwappen, sozusagen unsere Spitzbergentaufe!

Abends bittet dann Kapitän Alexander Golubev zum Willkommens-Cocktail gefolgt vom Willkommens-Abendessen.