Day 2 |
Aug 23, 2011

 Liefdefjord, Andoya Islands Monacobreen, Andoya Islands, Svalbard 

By Luciano Bernacchi, Naturalist, Birder, Glacier Guide


Co-ordinates: 79 37’ N 12 57’W
Weather: Overcast, foggy
Air Temperature: 6ºC
Pressure: 1016 hPa
Wind: Calm

I woke up with a call from Expedition Leader, Robin, saying we would start earlier than planned. As it sometimes happens in expedition travel, we were going to change our plan due to a Polar Bear sighting.

Some of my colleagues from the expedition staff had been on the Bridge on the lookout for Polar Bears in the area of the Andoya Islands, where we had seen bears on previous trips.
Soon all expedition staff members were ready and an announcement was made. All guests were invited to a pre-breakfast Zodiac cruise to see their first Polar Bear, less than a day after starting the trip. After a short tender, eight Zodiacs full of anxiously happy guests were facing their first Polar Bear in the wild.

Being their first Zodiac outing, I asked guests to please be silent and move slowly, and shared some information on Polar Bears, needless to say, as always meeting this great animal is always a very rewarding experience, and for sure one of the main attractions on any Arctic expedition.

On this occasion, I looked carefully through my binoculars while the Polar Bear was busy feeding on a carcass. Because of the distance, and a small ridge on the beach, we could not see exactly what it was eating, but we all think it was a seal. A few times it lifted the strips of flesh, and the face of the bear was all bloody, it was great to see the bear carry on feeding, unworried about the presence of various Zodiacs.

After almost 45 minutes, we got back to the Silver Explorer, and swapped guests so the other half could also approach and see the bear.

Once back on the ship, all guests had to attend the mandatory AECO briefing, which was followed by a briefing with information for the activities that followed.

I had a quick lunch as the Captain anchored very near the Monacobreen. Monaco is one of the main glaciers in the area, about 400 square kilometres in surface with a 5-km-wide face reaching the fjord. It is always an incredible place for a Zodiac cruise, amongst the icebergs, as near as safety allows to the snout of the glacier, and usually a good area to see impressive calving.

I was the driver for two lots of 90-minute Zodiac cruises. While one half of our guests were in the Zodiac the other half attended to a lecture given by our onboard marine biologist Robin Aiello entitled, “Polar Bears from Tip to Tail”. And then the groups reversed.

During the cruise I talked quite a bit about ice formation, how icebergs float, the density of glacier ice, the physics of underwater and airborne calving, and shared many other interesting facts about glaciers with our guests. Weather was overcast and foggy, but the different shades of blue ice were ever changing and always great for someone who likes glaciers and ice as much as I do. I also chatted with guests on board my Zodiac about my position as a Director of the newly opened Glacier Interpretation Centre in Southern Patagonia.

The day had gone by quickly with lots in it, but still we had our Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party to look forward to. All guests were nicely dressed in The Theatre when Expedition Leader Robin introduced the Master of the vessel, Captain Alexander Golubev. He introduced some of the senior officers while we all enjoyed a cocktail and lively talk.

Dinner followed, and I joined Staff Captain Hakan at his table along with four guests for a great dinner.

It was an amazing first expedition day for this voyage from Svalbard to Iceland!