Day 4 |
Jun 19, 2013

North-East Spitsbergen, Krossfjorden, 14th of July glacier, Ny Alesund. Svalbard 

By Luciano “Luqui” Bernacchi, Birder, Glacier Guide

Co-ordinates: N 79º07'31"E 011º48'28"

Weather: Overcast, light rain
Air Temperature: 5,2ºC
Pressure: 1006 hPa
Wind: 15 knots

I started the day having a look outside, to find the Silver Explorer anchored in the vicinity of the morning’s site, the beautiful 14th of July glacier at Krossfjorden, northwest Spitsbergen.

After a quick breakfast I joined my expedition team colleagues, and started lowering the zodiacs to start the day’s activities. I drove an empty boat and anchored it near the landing site. It is usual in the Arctic to leave some boats ready to be used in case a polar bear approaches the area and we need to evacuate the guests on shore.

In the meantime, the polar bear guards scout the area and set a perimeter and later stand sentinel on both ends of the beach. Once a few boats offloaded their guests, I started leading a walk along the beach that would later take us up on the moraine, and eventually to actually walk on the margin of the glacier.

The first half an hour along the beach, we made numerous photo stops, and I did a little interpretation on the landscape, some glacier information, and details about the bergy bits that previous waves and tides lined all over the beach. I then briefed the group so we could all follow the easiest and safest way up the scree slopes and moraine, and eventually made it up on the ice. I always love coming to this area on almost every Svalbard Expedition, as it is one of the few places where people can safely walk around on the ice and experience a close encounter with a glacier.

There was plenty of time for sightseeing, photos and for me to explain various aspects of glaciers; cryoconite holes, crevasses, glacier tables, how the ice moves, why does it look blue, and many more interesting things.
The first group started heading down back to the landing site, and I had some time up in the glacier waiting for the second half. A few reindeer were wandering up the moraine, and everyone got good views of them.

The morning passed quickly and lunch onboard the Silver Explorer happened while we repositioned to nearby Ny Alesund for an afternoon landing at this settlement and group of research stations.

Ny Alesund is one of the few settlements found in the archipelago, and several countries have scientists posted here to polar research in fields such as oceanography, climate, earth and atmospheric studies. For us, it is an opportunity to allow our guests to visit the museum, a very northern post office, and the historical site were Amundsen launched the air dirigible Norge, plus some Arctic shopping in the local souvenir shop.

The expedition staff was positioned in the various points. I had to stay near the bird sanctuary, and the pond, where birding is very good. I showed the birds to our interested guests, and we did find several interesting species such as: Red-throated Diver, Grey Phalarope, Ringed Plover, Barnacle Goose, Snow bunting, Long tailed Duck, and an unusual Red necked Phalarope.

By half past five, we all had to be onboard to get ready for our First Timers cocktails, followed by a briefing given by Expedition leader Robin West about tomorrow’s planned activities and the daily recap. At every recap, an expedition staff member would comment and answer questions that our guests may have.

Another excellent dinner was the finale for yet another great day up in the Arctic.