Day 9 |
Jul 04, 2013

Ny Alesund & 14th of July Glacier, Svalbard

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: N 78º55’, E 11º55'
Weather: overcast skies with some sunshine
Air Temperature: 9ºC
Pressure: 1017 hPa
Wind: 5 knots


Another great start to the day – calm seas, bright skies and no rain!

The Captain brought the ship alongside the port of Ny Alesund by 8am in the morning, so we had a nice early start. Ny Alesund is a small community of mainly scientific researchers from more than a dozen nations.

It was initially established in 1964, and some very important research about the ecology and health of the Arctic is carried out here. This morning we had a few hours to wander about and see several key places. There is a small but very informative museum here, an old post office building which has a few stamps that you can use to put into your passport, a great little souvenir shop for those needing a bit of retail therapy, and then there is the historic mast where Amundsen launched this large balloon to fly to the North Pole.

Centre to the entire station is a big larger-than-life statue of Amundsen. This was my location for the morning, directing guests to either the historic mast, where our historians were waiting to tell the tales, or to the dog kennels, post office and shop.

It was a warm arctic morning, and our guests had a great time just meandering around taking in the beautiful scenery and wildlife. There were many barnacle geese with their small fluffy chicks, a few snow buntings singing their melodious songs, and plenty of arctic terns carrying out their courtship ritual of bringing fish to one another.

On the backside of the settlement is a small pond, and this was a hive of bird activity – red phalaropes feeding, a small group of long-tailed ducks, purple sandpipers feeding along the shore line and a family of about 7 small eider duck chicks swimming with their mothers.

A real highlight was watching a solitary large male reindeer slowly saunter through the buildings, seemingly oblivious to the 40 or so people all snapping photos of him.

All aboard was 11:30am, and the ship set sail for our next destination, not too far away, called the 14th of July Glacier. This beautiful glacier can be very active with calving, and today was no exception. There was a huge calving as we were on shore, creating a series of massive waves that crashed up on the shore.

Here, the guests had the opportunities to walk up to the top of the glacier with Juan Carlos Restrepo, our glaciologist, and/or walk in the opposite direction to an area of nesting kittiwakes and beautiful flowers.

The weather was exceptionally warm, about 9 degrees C, and absolutely beautiful. Nearly everyone made it up the glacier to take in the amazing scenic views as well as to the ‘hanging garden’ site.

The final zodiac was at 6:30pm, and by 7pm everyone was changed and all dressed up for the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner. Everyone showed up in all their finery and the atmosphere was so very joyous. It was fun to see everyone smiling so much and recounting their favourite experience from the voyage.

But, it is not over yet – we have another great day planned for tomorrow – a long hike and possible some walrus sightings!!!