Day 9 |
Jul 24, 2013

Zeipelodden and Faksevagen, Svalbard, Norway

By Christian Walter, Historian

Co-ordinates: 79° 38’ N, 19° 11’ E (noon position)
Weather: Partly cloudy, overcast with a slight drizzle in the afternoon
Air Temperature: 3.3° C
Pressure: 1014 hPa
Wind: 21.7 kmh

We had just covered the distance from Lagoya to Zeipelodden in less than 9 hours. Calm seas all the way. And today was shaping up to be just perfect for the excursion ashore. No wind, a warm sun – everything was in favor for a 90-minute hike through a ‘Polar Desert’.

Looking out from the Silver Explorer, I could see at a glance that there was hardly anything except the rocks and stones, but a closer look unveiled the fascinating geology of Svalbard. Here a basaltic intrusion covered the layers of limestone that had formed millions of years ago in an area close to the equator. At Alkefjellet (where we had been two days ago) this had caused the calcareous layers above and below to morph into marble, but here we were too far away to see similar action. Yet, every so often pieces of marble-like material were found on the ground.

My first walk with the German-speaking group was in a clockwise direction. We first went parallel to the beach, looking at geological formations like stone rings, and noticed many flowers close to ancient whalebones. When we came upon a skeleton of a young Polar Bear, Karolina stood guard. It had obviously been there for years. According to Chris Srigley, it had been seen there some eight years before.

When I took my second walk, this time among English-speakers, we did a slightly longer loop, passing close to the base of the hill where water had accumulated and a thick plant-layer had formed. We determined this must have been a gathering place for reindeer, because of all the deer droppings and antlers we found.

At 11:10 a.m. the last zodiac was getting ready to leave the shore. Once back on board we prepared for our recap and briefing, which took place before lunch. Quite unusual, I must say. But as Kara explained later, this would mean we would have more time ashore this afternoon.

Shortly after 2 p.m. the Silver Explorer was ready to anchor at Faksevagen. When we got into the zodiacs, clouds had covered the sky, but it was still a nice landing for a good hike up the hills. Today’s landing site was close to the path leading up the hill; the trail was a bit muddier than expected, but both groups doing the hike with me managed well. Flowers were quite prominent on the lower slope, and Claudia had positioned herself on a little plateau to explain some of the plants to those who did not climb all the way up.

Chris Srigley had taken his position at the top of the hill, his usual point at Faksevagen, close to a Rock Ptarmigan’s nest. But no view of the Rock Ptarmigan today; on the other hand, we did see three reindeer.

While the second group ascended, it started to drizzle. As a result many decided to return a little earlier, and prepare for the “Farewell-Cocktail” Captain Adam Boczek was going to give a 7 p.m.

Captain Adam mentioned that, in spite of all the weather, how lucky we had been to see more Polar Bears during this voyage, than on any other voyage this season. Was it really only nine days ago that we had started in Tromso?

Afterwards, Captain Adam presented most of the crew – the stage was quite crowded – and he wished everyone a safe voyage onward or home. There still would be another day of adventure, and as he was leaving in Longyearbyen, too, this cocktail was fitting as a “Farewell”.

Most guests were then heading for the Restaurant and the tempting choices of our “Farewell-Dinner”; I went to look who was still in the Panorama Lounge, and had a chat with four guests waiting for companions to appear. During dinner the Silver Explorer was once again going through the Hinlopenstrait, and eventually turned west to reach Kongsfjord and Ny Alesund in the morning.

By about half-past nine, I was able to finish the log, and wrote a few postcards to be sent from the northernmost post office in Europe the following morning.