Day 8 |
Jun 11, 2013

at sea in the morning, Bear Island, Svalbard

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 74°21´22´´N, 19°10´05´´E
Weather: sunny

Air Temperature: 1 C
Sea Temperature:

At 9.30, the Expedition Team had “Whale Watch” on the bridge, looking out for these beautiful marine mammals. Before I started my duties of the day, I had breakfast in the Restaurant and during that time a group of Whitesided Dolphins passed the Silver Explorer. Eager to see more whales, we kept on looking and later this effort had a reward. At 11.30, a lecture of my colleague Sue Flood took place in the theater. But it didn’t last very long, because suddenly a humpback whale was in front of our bow. The lecture was interrupted and all our guests went out to see the whale. It was swimming only briefly around the ship on our starboard side, before it showed its fluke and dove away.

After this highlight of the morning the lecture was continued. At noon, I had a wonderful lunch with guests from Australia in The Restaurant chatting with them about the whale and the Zodiac tour we will do in few moments.

Right on time, the Silver Explorer anchored in the Sorhamna Bay of Bear Island. The weather was stunning, which is a very rare occasion for Bear Island. From the ship our guest already could see the dramatic scenery of this place.

Half an hour later all Zodiacs were ready and we could start the excursions. Going along the cliffs is really one of the most spectacular views up here in the north. As there was no swell at all, our guests enjoyed this Zodiac ride which brought them first into limestone caves washed out by the action of the waves over thousands of years and then took them along the cliffs were innumerous birds are nesting. The most common are Brünnichs Guillemot, Common Guillemot and Kittiwake. Additionally we could also observe, Glaucous Gull, Northern Fulmar, Great Black Back Gull and some individuals of Atlantic Puffins. Just when we were going with our Zodiacs around a corner there was a Glaucous Gull sitting on the beach feeding on a dead Kittiwake.

Northern Fulmars were always accompanying the Zodiac and it was interesting to watch them gliding over the sea surface. Also interesting is that you can find the two morphs of Northern Fulmar in this area. One is the white morph and the other one is the brown morph which as the Silver Explorer is going further north becomes more abundant than the white morph. Some of the Common Guillemots are showing their bridal morph with a white stripe above the eye and white-eye rings.

In a bay just near the most southern tip of the Island, a shipwreck is stranded on the shore beneath the cliffs. It is a Russian cargo ship, which ran aground in March 2009 due to irresponsibility from the captain and crew. The scenery has a little kind of magic seeing the shipwreck, the tall cliffs and the wave crashing against them. Through a tunnel in the rocks the Zodiac was crossing to another bay with such dramatic scenery that mirrored scenes from the film “Jurassic Park”. Going around the corner on the very southern end of the island suddenly a rock needle, called Sylen, 80m high and around 100m offshore rises out of the water, giving to our guests another spectacular view of this island. Steep cliffs, birds everywhere and waterfalls with crystal clear water coming down the walls, this is Bear Island, one of the most spectacular Zodiac tours up here in the Arctic.

In the evening, a recap and briefing rounded up our first day in the really Arctic and the guests as well as the Expedition Team are looking forward to reach Svalbard the home of the most enigmatic animal up here: the Polar bear.