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Day 15 |
Jun 26, 2008

Svalbard

By Chris Srigley

Co-ordinates: 78°08’666N, 11°45’225W

Onboard the Prince Albert II this morning we awoke to calm seas, scattered clouds and a beautiful view as we sailed down the west coasts of Spitspbergen and Prince Karls Forland. Due to our previous days movement in the ice and an unexpected sighting of a Blue Whale (which was spotted by our AB at the helm, Randolph), we were a bit behind our scheduled timings. However, the calm seas overnight allowed us travel with some speed and by 1000, we were closing the gap between Poolepynten, our first stop of the day, and ourselves. Translated to English Poolepynten means “pool point”, so named for a fresh water pond that dominates the area. The Prince Albert II’s purpose for visiting this area of Svalbard was to search for Walrus!

As we approached Poolepynten, what was first thought to be a small group of Walrus came in to view. Our fears of an abandoned beach were set aside. With each km we gained, the group of Walrus grew, until we had two groups each with approximately 25-40 walrus. With these sightings, the excitement grew as Prince Albert II’s  deck crew prepared our side gate and lowered the Zodiacs. Upon our arrival on shore, Tony Huntley took the first guests down to visit the Walrus haul out as Brent Stephenson remained by our landing sight to spot shore birds around the pool while others combed the beaches for flowers and anything else we may find of interest.

During Brent’s time with the guests spotting birds, they were able to find Red throated divers, Kittiwake, Arctic Skua, Grey (Red) Phalarope and were attacked frequently by the numerous Arctic terns who were nesting near by. Scanning with his scope, Brent was able to find a Tern perched on its nest and all enjoyed a great view.

With smiles on their faces, guests returned to the ship for lunch as we transited across the channel and into St. Johnsfjorden on approach to our second landing of the day.

During our transit, staff remained dutifully on watch in search of what at this point is becoming known as the elusive Polar Bear. As the Prince Albert II made her final approach, Brent yelled out that he had something on shore as it disappeared behind a hill. Captain Uli Demil turned the Prince Albert II in an attempt to find our first Polar Bear. Alas, our sighting was a Reindeer.

Once onshore, Jan Navjord and Geir Berg, our Polar Bear guides, headed to viewpoints to scan for Polar Bear while Chris Srigley and Brent led several guests on a hike to spot wildlife and get a great view of Gaiffelbreen glacier. During this hike, they were able to spot Svalbard Reindeer, Purple Sandpiper, Snow Bunting, Svalbard Ptarmigan and nesting Pink Footed Geese.

Many guests noticed bunches of white fur scattered about and asked Chris what it was. Mentioning the two choices that this white fur could be, Polar Bear and Reindeer, he explained the differences and how they would be able to answer this question for themselves in the coming days. A Polar Bear’s hair is actually translucent and hollow, helping to trap air for warmth, giving it it’s white or slightly off-white color as well as being strong. Reindeer hair is extremely brittle and easily breaks when bent in hand or twisted. This was Reindeer hair.

All in all it was eventful day in Svalbard onboard the Prince Albert II. Guests returned to the ship eager for dinner and our chances to find the elusive Isbjorn (Polar Bear in Norwegian) tomorrow!

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