Day 2 |
Jul 07, 2013

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

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist and Birder


Co-ordinates: N 79º07'31"E 011º48'28"
Weather: Overcast, light rain
Air Temperature: 5,2ºC
Pressure: 1006 hPa
Wind: 5 knots

Today was our first full day on the Silver Explorer and we had a morning at sea en route to 14th July Glacier in Krossfjorden, in the North western side of Spitsbergen. This meant that everyone could sleep in a little and have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the theatre for a mandatory AECO (Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) and zodiac briefing. This sets the scene for our adventure in the Arctic where we hope to see polar bears, reindeer and walrus, not to mention spectacular scenery. After the briefings we had handed out boots to guests who didn’t bring their own boots and wished to make use of the limited stock on the ship.

A great buffet lunch was enjoyed while looking out over the stunning 14th July Glacier in Krossfjorden. This glacier was named by Prince Albert I of Monaco in the early 20th century to pay homage to the French National Day (Bastille Day), which is on July 14th. All the glaciers in this glacier system have retreated 40% since they were photographed by Prince Albert I expedition in 1906, so we are very fortunate to still be able to see this amazing glacier face with a dark medial moraine cutting down the centre, where two different glaciers have merged.

The guests had the option of two walks. One of the walks was a strenuous 4 km hike to the glacier, where they could see the glacier close up. Many guests saw the glacier calving. I was further out when I heard a massive crack, similar to the sound of a gunshot, but it was the glacier grinding forward. The noise I heard was probably a crevasse opening up.

The other walk was a short walk to a beautiful overhanging garden, with many mosses and small plants, where our botanist, Hans-Peter, set up his interpretation site. On the steep mountain slopes, which rose nearly 900m up, there were a number of reindeer walking around, oblivious to our presence.

I was driving the zodiacs for this outing, which gave me the opportunity to take guests to some bird cliffs at the entrance to the bay. I love these cliffs, where Brunnich’s Guillemot and Atlantic Puffin are breeding. I also saw a Glaucous gull with three small chicks, which were wet from the drizzle and had amazing spiky hairdos. The puffins are everyone’s favourite with their colourful bill and frenetic flight, where the wings flap madly and they don’t seem to go anywhere fast.

While driving my boat, I came across a young bearded seal, who looked at me curiously then made a dive under the water, the guests had the chance to see him on an ice floe with one of the adults later in the landing.

After a successful landing, we lifted up the zodiacs and had half an hour to get ready for the Captain’s Welcome cocktail party. The transformation of the guests and expedition team was amazing. To think that we were just out in the cold with all our foul weather gear less than an hour ago and here we are drinking champagne and toasting to our new adventure. As always the welcome cocktail party is followed by a delectable dinner, prepared by our executive chef, Christian and after dinner drinks to the relaxing music provided by Lou, our talented pianist. Later we retreated for bed so that we are well rested for tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to see our first polar bear.