Day 12 |
Jun 24, 2012

Poolepynten & Alkhornet, Svalbard 

By Stefan Kredel, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 78º20'54", E 12º19'41"
Weather: cloudy, partly rainy
Air Temperature: 4,6°C
Pressure: 1001 hPa
Wind: 2 knots

Since the time we set sail yesterday, we have had to cover quite a distance: 220 nautical miles sailed from the Monaco Breen to Poolepynten, our morning destination for today. Poolepynten is a land spit on Prins Karls Forland, a smaller island on the west side of Spitsbergen. Generally speaking, the landscape is rather boring there. It is a flat sandy beach with a lot of driftwood. Also quite some rubbish can be found at the beach. But we were told the day before that we are not meant to clean the beach. There is a research project ongoing, and once a year scientists come here to pick up all the rubbish. They want to monitor the amount of rubbish that gets washed up per year, as well as which kind of rubbish. By that they may get an idea where it was coming from and for that they get an idea of ocean currents up here in the very north of the Atlantic. So the question is obviously why we went there. The reason is because it is a very well known haul-out for walruses. And we were lucky. Already from the ship we could see that there were quite some of those “big sausages” (as a captain from another company once called them).

With walruses we have to be even more careful than we are usually. They are very sensitive to disturbance, and if they feel disturbed, the whole group would rush at once into the ocean. For that reason we only let 30 guests at a time to the haul-out. The ride to the beach was a bit bumpy, but most guests stayed dry. I drove the first guests ashore and anchored my boat offshore. Once on the beach I went to the walruses and helped our marine biologists to control the area around the animals. It was an easy thing to do. Our guests had already had a couple of good wildlife outings while on this cruise, so they knew to move slowly, stay quiet and not to go too close. Everybody seemed to be happy and pleased that we managed to show them the walruses. Also the walruses seemed to be happy and undisturbed.

We finished just before lunch time. And while we had lunch, the Captain brought the ship to our afternoon destination, Alkhornet. I think it was a superb last stop for our cruise. In our 4½ days in Svalbard we saw polar bears, sea ice, glaciers, bearded seals, bird cliffs, a historic place, an active coal mine settlement and walruses. So as a last stop we had a place where our guests could walk a bit around, with our bear guards as the outer perimeters. From the beach it is a smaller step up to a rather flat tundra vegetation area. As we were early in the season, most of the ground was still frozen, but the first flowers were already visible. For those who wanted, they could go further up, to the bottom of a steep bird cliff. Beside nice landscape there were also quite some reindeer around. And quite some guests got lucky enough and saw a polar fox. So a nice ending to a cruise that started in Reykjavik, Iceland.

It is always fascinating to realize how much we have seen in less than 2 weeks. Just before dinner we watched the voyage DVD created by our onboard photographer Elliott. A masterpiece as usual! Also, it is nice to see in 45 minutes a quick recap of all the places we have visited over the last 12 days.

As Alkhornet is close to Longyearbyen, we sailed there during dinnertime and the anchor was dropped. A Zodiac shuttle was offered. I took advantage of it and went into “town”. I wanted to see the game England – Italy. I was not the only one watching the game. It was a good game, which ended after a penalty shoot-out for Italy. They will play next Germany…

Funny, when I came back to the ship at about midnight, the sun was still high above the horizon.