Day 9 |
Jun 20, 2008

En Route to Jan Mayen Island

By Tony Huntley, Staff

0300 Very early this morning and without fanfare the Prince Albert II crossed the imaginary line called the Arctic Circle and slipped into the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”  The Arctic Circle lies at 66° 33’ 39” north of the equator and it divides the northern temperate zone from the arctic zone. Areas above this latitude experience at least one period of continuous sunlight in the summer and one period of continuous darkness in the winter.  For the past several days the sun has set very late and we’ve been making good use of the curtains in our suites. 

0630 In addition to the very long days, the temperature has also been falling.  Yesterday morning the temperature was a brisk 10° C; this morning the temperature is only 2°.  Several early risers met in the Observation Lounge for tea, croissants and an unobstructed view of the horizon without the wind.  After last evening’s sighting of a group of Minke whales, everyone is paying much closer attention to the sea around us.  From his suite window, guest John Watson has seen several dolphins playing in the bow wake.  We’re still working on the species identification, but they may have been White-beaked Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris).

1000 Christian Walter discussed the travels of the Vikings in his lecture this morning. Although we normally perceive the Vikings as a single group, the Danes, Norwegian, and Swedish groups selected very different routes for their travels.  The Danes sailed along the coast of continental Europe attacking Frisia, France and even entered the Mediterranean, but they are best known for their occupation of England.  A good part of England was under Danish control until they were driven from the country by William the Conqueror.  The Norwegian Vikings used a more northwesterly route, occupying parts of Scotland and Ireland, eventually finding Iceland, Greenland and America.  As the Swedes had no access to the North Sea, they traveled east, following the river systems into the Caspian Sea, Russia and the Mediterranean.  Because the Finns called the Swedish Vikings “russe,” today we have the name Russia for that country.  Although the Vikings are usually considers raiders and pirates, they were excellent boatbuilders and traders.  Many of them blended into local populations as seen in Ireland, England, Normandy, and Russia.

1400 In a lecture entitled “Northern Gannets and Atlantic Puffins,” Brent Stephenson explained that these are truly iconic birds in the arctic region.  In fact, the scientific name of the puffin is Fratercula arctica, which means brother of the arctic. Puffins are social birds, nesting in colonies on slopes.  Their nests are underground in the slope.  The adult birds are powerful divers, reaching depths in excess of 70 m to retrieve small fish.  In winter these colorful birds shed the clown-like bill covering and migrate out to sea until the next breeding season.  Gannets are the largest indigenous seabird of the northern Atlantic region.  They breed on seaward cliffs in large groups. These gregarious birds are often seen in the company of seabirds feeding on shoals of small fish.  Like puffins, they spend the winter months out at sea.

1630 This afternoon Brent Stephenson and Chris Srigley observed a Northern Bottle-nosed Whale very close to the ship.  The animal “spyhopped” for a good look at the ship and allowed the naturalists a positive identification.  Bottle-nosed whales are an uncommon sighting, so our hats are off to them for a great job of whale watching!

1700 This evening, our Expedition Leader, Brad Rhees, gave a briefing on the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) guidelines.  Preservation of the fragile arctic habitat is the primary concern of the organization.  With increasing tourist interest and visits to the arctic, members of this group have voluntarily agreed to adhere to a set of guidelines designed to minimize destructive activities during expeditions.  Brad explained the basic tenets and guidelines that we should follow while onshore.  He emphasized the importance of not disturbing the wildlife and safety rules when in the vicinity of bears, seals and walrus.  Following this briefing, Brad explained the landing at the island of Jan Mayen tomorrow.

1800 This evening, a cocktail party was held for members of the Silversea Venetian Society in the Observation Lounge.  More than 70% of our guests are members of this group that has traveled more than once on a Silversea cruise.  On this cruise some guests have logged more than 480 days cruising aboard Silversea ships. 

2230 Following dinner several of us dropped by the Panorama Lounge to listen to pianist Daryl and wonder at the brightness of light at this late hour in this land of the midnight sun.