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Day 5 |
Jul 20, 2013

Discobukta and Kapp Lee, Edgeoya, Svalbard

By Claudia Holgate, Ornithologist and Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 77º 58' N, 021º 19' E
Weather: Overcast with intermittent rain
Air Temperature: 2ºC
Pressure: 998 hPa
Wind: 37 knots

Last night we had a long distance to travel and the wind had picked up, making the ship move more than most of our guests are used to. It hadn’t died down by the morning, but I was still hopeful that we would get out and have a walk at one of my favourite landings, Discobukta. I woke up and put on most of my thermals before heading off to breakfast so that I could be ready for an early standby. A message came over the radio that the bear guards had spotted a bear at the landing site, thus preventing us from landing there.

Kara, our Expedition leader, made an announcement to get all guests to come up to deck 6 and look through binoculars to see the bear, which was just a small spot on the landscape. We would have launched the Zodiacs but the winds were blowing between 35 and 40 knots, which is faster than the safe operating limits. I quickly went down to my room, grabbed my jacket and spotting scope and headed up to deck 6 to show our guests the bear. The wind was biting, making it almost impossible to stand at the front, so everyone huddled on the lee side of the ship while we pointed out the bear in the distance.

We decided to go 20 nautical miles north of Discobukta to our afternoon landing spot, Kapp Lee, and see if we could make a possible landing there. As we got closer to Kapp Lee, we spotted another bear on the shore, but the winds were too strong for us to be outside for long. We decided to wait and see if the wind speed would die down and planned out our afternoon activities. Kara asked me to give my lecture on birds of the Arctic, which was meant to be on the second day, but was cancelled when we managed to squeeze in a landing at Bear Island meteorological station.

So 11am was my turn to give one of my favourite lectures on birds. I always try and put in interesting information about the different species so that is it not a catalogue of birds we may see, but rather stories of their life histories and adaptations to living life in the polar regions. The lecture was well attended and there were many questions, so I think it was successful.

We had a chance for lunch before Robin and Uli, our two marine biologists, gave a talk on Polar bears in English and German respectively. Robin’s lectures are always fascinating, with a lot of interesting information peppered with anecdotes and humour.

The wind was still blowing a gale outside so Kara and our Captain decided to leave the anchorage and start our journey up North towards tomorrow’s destination. Although we lost a day of landings, we managed to get in some of our lecture programme. Peter presented team trivia during tea and Hans-Peter, our botanist, gave a lecture on the plants and biodiversity in German at 5pm.

We had our usual recap and briefing before dinner, where Kara talked about our plans for the next day and Juan gave a short presentation on ocean currents and the driftwood we have encountered. I spoke on the Beaufort wind scale to give guests and idea of the wind speeds we experienced throughout the day and Peter followed up with the story of Amundsen and Nobile crossing the North Pole in a balloon. The finale came from Karolina, our bear guard, who told her story of taking her sled dogs up to the North Pole, which is always of great interest to our guests.

After the recap, dinner was served in the restaurant followed by after dinner drinks in the Panorama lounge to the music of Lou. Let’s hope the weather improves for tomorrow.

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