Day 4 |
Jul 19, 2013

Burgerbukta, Svalbard

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 77˚20.77N & 016'01.02 E
Weather: Overcast skies
Air Temperature: 3ºC
Pressure: 1001 hPa
Wind: 15 knots

Another amazing day up here in the Arctic – with large glacier calvings, great tundra walks and good birding.

It all started early in the morning with a zodiac tour of the glacier far in the back of Burgerbukta. We could tell right away that there had been a significant amount of calving in the recent days just by the amount of small icebergs floating near the calving front.

I reached the glacier and was drifting amongst the ice in idle, talking with the guests about the bubbles in the iceberg ice (telling them about how they formed and why we could hear them popping as they ice melted in the ocean), when we noticed a relatively small chunk of ice breaking off from the roof of the large cave in front of us. As soon as I had pointed it out, and we were all looking in that direction, suddenly the entire section of glacier stated to crumble.

It was amazing – a huge section of the glacier fell into the sea. It kept breaking apart until only a large pillar of ice remained – and this section stated to rise up – taller and taller, until it suddenly collapsed back into the sea – creating huge chunks of ice that floated away from the glacier.

It was one of the largest calvings that I have ever seen. Spectacular! And the best part of it was that Richard Sidey, our photographer, captured the entire thing on video for the voyage DVD!

Another highlight of the zodiac tour was spotting one of the most beautiful gulls up here in the Arctic – the all white Ivory Gull. There was one bird that made several flights right over our zodiac – giving us great views!

After lunch we headed ashore at a nearby destination, only a couple miles away, called Gnalodden. On this site there is an old Norwegian hunting hut that remains in good condition. Peter Damisch, our historian, posted himself at the hut and as we brought each group past he told us all about the history of the place – bringing to life the past in wonderful detail.

The afternoon walk was relaxed and fun. We all sat down on the tundra and marvelled at the stunning, albeit very small, flowers that surrounded us, then found a pair of nesting glaucous gulls high on a solitary granite boulder. These gulls periodically swooped down over us – letting out warning calls, telling us that we were too close. They were being protective of their chicks that were hiding high on the rock. Glaucous gull chicks are so cute! They are fluffy grey/brown (making them blend right into the rocks themselves) with dark speckled faces.

Next stop on our tundra walk was a very special one – a location that Chris Srigley, our Bear Guard, had found a few trips ago. It is a location near the shore where polar bears had stopped to rest. There were two depressions in the tundra where the grass was matted down along with white polar bear under-fur. At one of the spots it was evident that the bear had even scraped away the top layer of tundra to get closer to the cooler earth beneath - probably in search of relief from a warm day.

Overall it was a fantastic day. The rain held off, except for a few brief, misty showers, and the winds permitted relatively dry rides to and from out the ship.

Right now we are sailing our way around the southern tip of Spitsbergen, heading east to Edgeoya for tomorrow’s adventures!