Day 8 |
Jul 03, 2013

 At sea, Svalbard, Norway 

By Christian Walter, Historian


Co-ordinates: 80° 28’ 49” N, 17° 17’ 41” E
Weather: partly clouded and sunny
Air Temperature: 1° C
Sea Temperature: 1° C
Pressure: 1010 hPa
Wind: 25.2 kmh

Since Kara had told us we would be heading north towards the ice edge, it came as no surprise when the sound of ice floes scraping against the hull of the ship woke me up before 7 a.m.
Another early start, but we were rewarded with a view of ice all around us. M/v Silver Explorer had made its way past 80° N in search of seals, walrus and polar bears.

It did not take long and Karolina, our bear-guard from Longyearbyen, spotted a bear in the distance. Captain Adam Boscek manoeuvered the M/v Silver Explorer in such a way that we were not heading in the direction of the bear, but were heading in an angle where the bear was heading, too. Eventually our courses would meet, although the bear was much faster on the ice than our speed.

When the bear stopped, so did the captain. For quite some time we were looking at the distant figure of the bear, which had apparently been patiently waiting next to a breathing hole of a seal when eventually the bear lost interest in the seal, but decided to come closer and have a look at M/v Silver Explorer.

We could not really believe our eyes, as the bear came closer and closer, and finally walked around the M/v Silver Explorer –most probably attracted by the smell of breakfast served in The Restaurant.

Lenses could not be wide enough, as the bear was so close that with a telephoto lens one could take details of the animal.

It was a very rare opportunity to see a bear that close to the ship. Other staff members could only think of three similar cases in the last 6 years. For many, it was quite a moving experience to see a polar bear this close-up.

After quite a while the bear decided to look for its own food, turned around and walked away …and eventually so did we. Kara mentioned on the PA that we had been blessed with such a sighting, but would now go on and look for other wildlife. Soon after, Captain Adam turned the M/v Silver Explorer towards the west.

While looking for seals, I had an interesting discussion with one of our guests about Easter Island. He had been to the island and we talked about the different theories in regard to the collapse and demise of its culture.

During our conversation, “The Polar Plunge” was announced at 10:45 a.m. We were at 80° 28’ 49” N and 17° 17’ 41” E! Although Captain Boscek had looked for an ice-free spot, there was still enough ice in the area to call it a real polar plunge.

As soon as the zodiacs were ready, we started with our first two guests, and they kept coming, and coming and coming! More than one hour passed as more than 30 guests and several crew members –among them Chef Christian (he does it every single time), Assistant EL Tim, Rock Star Juan, Rich Pagen and photographer/videographer Richard Sidey- all wanted to have a taste of the cold. To some it was surprising, to others invigorating; some actually did the jump twice!

A well-deserved lunch was followed by the preparation for my French lecture “Early Arctic Exploration”. This gave me an opportunity to talk about the different European explorers who had tried to reach the Pacific via the Arctic Sea or the Canadian Arctic. I had already mentioned August Petermann and his influence in sending German expeditions astray based on his belief the polar sea would be ice-free, but there had been others who had hoped to reach the East in just a few days or weeks.

Recap in French and German turned into an extended briefing and centered on the arctic aerial expeditions that had left from Ny Alesund, above all the several attempts by Amundsen and Nobile since we were going to visit Ny Alesund tomorrow.

A truly magnificent day came to an end with an orange juice in the Panorama Lounge and more spectacular vistas of the northern coast of Spitzbergen and adjacent islands.