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Day 8 |
Jul 29, 2012

Hornsund, Svalbard 

By Peter W. Damisch, Historian, General Naturalist, Polar Bear Guard, Zodiac Driver and Cartographer

Co-ordinates: N 78º57'18", E 15º31'57"
Weather: Clear, then Fog and Mist
Air Temperature: 5ºC
Pressure: 1008 hPa
Wind: 15 knots

Today started just a little bit earlier for me than usual, not for our guests on board, just myself and the Bridge crew. I was up and fully dressed in my Zodiac gear by 0300 in the very early morning, as there was one mission that I had to fulfill. Unfortunately we have come to the end of our expedition season in Svalbard. Thus we needed to disembark two of our Bear Guards along with our rifles, flare pistols and ammunition, as they cannot be transported to the mainland of Norway.

This very early time was specifically designed to ensure that we could make a quick, technical stop in Longyearbyen but still conduct one final Zodiac cruise later in the day. Of course we are enjoying the Land of the Midnight Sun and thus there was plenty of daylight when I worked with the Deck Department to safely launch the Zodiac.

Soon enough I was alongside the Silver Explorer to embark by two good friends along with their gear. Even for a capital city of less than 3,000 people it was pretty quiet this early in the morning. It was only a short distance to the Zodiac dock where our ship’s agent was waiting. I said goodbye and see you in a few months, then picked up some additional material as well as a few charts and headed back to the ship. Quickly enough the Zodiac was hoisted back on board and we continued on our way.

After working on my presentation material for a short time, then going back to bed, I wandered up to The Theatre to listen to Rich Pagen on of our onboard ornithologists give a new lecture titled “Flashes of Color in a Barren Land”. One of the best things about working on board the Silver Explorer is the opportunity to learn from world authority about a wide variety of subjects. In this case, Rich is a tremendously knowledgeable bird expert who also has a great sense of humor.

One of our primary events in the afternoon was a zodiac cruise in Burgerbukta. Normally this is a beautiful cruise in a deep fjord surrounded by tall, snow-capped mountains and which terminates in a huge glacier. We had all of that today and more but with an additional and somewhat unexpected surprise.

The first of our Zodiacs that traveled into the fjord with guests discovered a polar bear feeding on a seal on top of a small iceberg! Slowly I carefully approached the ice floe until we had an excellent view of a very large, male polar bear with an enormous and clearly well fed belly. The bear was taking his time, selecting only the very best pieces while periodically pawing the ice. The latter is a normal behavior to test the ice thickness and strength to ensure the iceberg won’t collapse and dump the recent kill into the sea. It was all such a fantastic experience that it was somewhat difficult to pull one’s eyes away to also view Ivory Gulls and Glaucous Gulls also nearby as well as multiple waterfalls tumbling snow melt water into the fjord. The whole Zodiac cruise was simply spectacular.

Once back on board the Silver Explorer I finished off this part of the day by giving a final Recap, this time about Willem Barrents and the problems his expedition had 400 years ago dealing with polar bears in Svalbard and the surrounding area. It was a bit of history as well as a bit of fun as the polar bears in the various accounts often came out as the victors!

Just after recap myself and several of the Expedition Team were invited to the Panorama Lounge and we then really finished up the day before dinner by having a drink and watching the tall mountains of Svalbard slip by our port side as we began our voyage towards Bear Island and tomorrow’s next adventure.
 

Day 7
Juy 29, 2012
Burgerbukta, Hornsund
Harald Schwammer, Zoologe

Co-ordinates: S 78º57'18", W 15º31'57"
Weather: Sunny with scattered clouds
Air Temperature: -1ºC
Pressure: 961 hPa
Wind: 5 knots

Die Polarnacht war heute relative kurz denn gegen 3 Uhr morgens stoppte die Silver Explorer, für unsere Gäste allerdings unbemerkt, vor Longyearbyen. Peter, einer unserer Lektoren brachte, nachdem wir sie im Team am Vorabend gebührend verabschiedet hatten, mit dem Zodiac unsere beiden Bärenwächter Karolina Karas und Chris Srigley an Land. Sie haben beide für unsere Sicherheit an Land gesorgt und schon lange vor der eigentlichen Anlandung die Region genau beobachtet, aber auch während dieser als Bärenwächter die Lokalität bewaffnet überwacht, damit es nicht zu gefährlichen Begegnungen mit Eisbären kommen kann. Ein herzliches Dankeschön!

Der Himmel war zwar neuerlich bedeckt, doch das Meer total glatt und unser Schiff glitt völlig ruhig unsere nächsten Destination Burgerskopta entgegen.

Am Vormittag brachte Franz einen äußerst interessanten Vortrag in deutscher Sprache über den Vogelzug, denn er präsentierte neueste, eigene Forschungsergebnisse über das Verhalten der Zugvögel, aber auch mit welchen Methoden man dieses erforscht kann.

Danach folgte der englische Vortrag von Richard Pagan über die spezifischen Anpassungen der farbenprächtigen Pflanzen in der Arktik. Einerseits lebensfeindlich gibt es dennoch im arktischen Lebensraum eine überraschende Vielfalt an Pflanzen.

Gegen 14 Uhr erreichte die Silver Explorer ihre Ankerposition vor Burgerskota. Im ersten Zodiak begleitete ich Ulli, der den Zodiak lenkte, und die erste deutschsprachige Gruppe. Mit Vollgas fuhr Ulli Richtung Gletscher, als er plötzlich vor uns auf einer großen schwimmenden Eisscholle einen Eisbär mit seiner erlegten Robbe entdeckte. Ganz langsam und vorsichtig näherten wir uns! Die Begeisterung unserer Gäste war grenzenlos, konnten wir doch den Bären direkt beim Fressen seiner Beute beobachten.

Die Szenerie mit den hohen Bergen des Fjordes, die Gletscherkante mit blau leuchtendem Eis und davor auf der Eisscholle treibend der Eisbär, diesen faszinierenden Anblick wird wohl kaum jemand jemals vergessen können.

Während der Zodiak-Rundfahrt mit der zweiten Gruppe konnte der Eisbär schwimmend beobachtet werden, denn er verließ die Eisscholle und schwamm gemütlich zum naheliegenden Ufer. Dort kletterte er an Land und wälzte sich ausgiebig in einem Schneefeld, dabei alle vier Beine weit von sich steckend.

Die danach dazu passende Überraschung für unsere Gäste war das Hotel-Boot, Christian der Koch servierte mit seinem Team Champagner!

Wie die meisten Expeditionstage gab es am Abend im Kino die Rück- und Vorschau für den folgenden Tag. Die Bäreninsel ist das nächste und letzte Ziel dieser äußerst erfolgreichen Expeditions-Kreuzfahrt mit der Silver Explorer mit unglaublich vielen Tiersichtungen und Erlebnissen! 

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