Day 9 |
Jun 12, 2013

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 77º39.6’ N, 011º17.8’ E
Weather: Sunny 
Air Temperature: 1ºC
Pressure: 1010 hPa 
Wind: 13 knots

Slightly rougher seas in the morning caused many
onboard the Silver Explorer to have a slow start today. The Restaurant
during breakfast was a quiet and peaceful place and the first lecture which
started at 10:00 was also sparsely attended at the beginning, though more and
more trickled in lured there by the topic – polar bears!

Being that we had a day at sea, there was time
today to attend lectures, wander the open decks in the crisp cold air, and also
sleep a bit more, catch up with sorting photos and reading books and generally
relaxing. The air outside had dropped to a frigid one degree Celsius, and light
snow flurries fell during the course of the morning to clear up in to sunshine
and clear conditions around noon. In the distance, we could see the snowy peaks
of Svalbard. Kittiwakes and fulmars flew around the ship.

The chef put on a marvellous cooking
demonstration just before lunch that left our mouths watering. After lunch, the
lecture program continued with a talk from Hans Peter about the botany of the
arctic regions and then later Robin our Expedition Leader gave a briefing about
our plans for the following day and our hopes of encountering polar bears and
ice. That was followed by Robin Aiello’s lecture on weird and interesting lesser-known
marine creatures.

We continued to watch the magnificent snowy peaks
of Svalbard as we cruised with Prins Karls Foreland (a large island on the
western side of the Svalbard archipelago) on our starboard side. A lot of snow
covered the slopes and shores and we admired this wild and remote and somewhat
forbidden-looking and desolate landscape.

Our plans changed later in the day and dinner was
brought forward by one hour because of the good speed we had made during the
day on our way north. We now had a bit of time to spare and so the decision was
made to turn into Magdalenefjord on the northwest coast for a bit of a scenic
ship cruise in the evening.

Magdalanefjord cuts 10 km into the coast from the
western side as is about 2 km wide. Used frequently by whalers during the 17th
century, both Pomors and Norwegian trappers later followed the whalers into
this fjord to exploit the biological resources there. It is known as one of the
most scenic spots in all of Svalbard.

After an early dinner, we headed outside onto the
outer decks to take in the sharp cold air and admire as the Silver Explorer
approached the entrance to Magdalenefjord. The wind was fierce and even bundled
up in all possible layers it was positively freezing cold outside. Nevertheless,
it was worth it for the views of the fjord and the glaciers that spilled their
smooth blue icy walls into the sea. We passed a small piece of land with a
lonely old trappers hut on it. At the back of the fjord we stopped, as we could
go no further. Just before turning around to head out again the glacier
rewarded us with a large chunk calving off into the sea and creating a massive
wave that rushed along the shoreline.

On the way back out of the fjord, we turned a bit
towards the port side and got a look at some walruses that were lying in a heap
on the far shore of a small spit of land. They weren’t positioned in a place
where it was easy to see them at all, but those with binoculars managed to get a
glimpse of these massive brown beasts resting on the shore side oblivious to
the freezing cold wind that caused us all to eventually scurry back inside for
a hot drink.