Last night we all gathered around Daryl in the Panorama Lounge to reminisce over our last 10 days in the region of Svalbard with thoughts of a lie-in dancing in our heads…
BING BONG!!! “Good morning ladies and gentleman, good morning…” What we thought was going to be a mid-day Zodiac cruise turned into a morning landing. To our surprise, we had arrived earlier than expected in Hornsund, and our Expedition Team prepared to head ashore and clear the landing sight. Our destination this morning was, Gashamna, an open bay on the south side of Hornsund. Translated, Gashamna means “Goose Bay”. Sadly we did not see any geese, though. Early English whalers are thought to have been the first to use this site as a station. Today, whalebones scatter the landscape around the ruins of the hut and former blubber ovens. Stories of days gone past, lessons to be learned.
As announcements were made, the long-hikers gathered in anticipation, joining Brent Stephenson and myself for a hike back to the moraine and a look over Nigerbreen.
The rest of the guests would spend time walking within our set-up perimeter under the watchful eye of our rangers, always on the look out for Isbjorn. On the hike, we were able to get great views of the Svalbard Reindeer and nesting Arctic Skua. I pointed out several of the beautiful flowers and grasses which call this region home, explaining how Moss Campion, which is a small domed shaped plant with fantastic pink flowers, has adapted its solid tuft to protect it against the strong cold winds, and to retain moisture in the dry gravelly areas in which it grows. I also explained that if we were to lace a thermometer into its centre, we were likely to get a temperature of around 24 degrees Celsius within it. As we approached the base of the moraine, some of the guests decided that the climb would be too much, while the others headed up to the top. We took in the braided plain and thought what it must have been like here one million years ago.
Meanwhile, back at the landing sight, several guests were able to cruise through the ice in the Zodiacs before heading back to the ship. As the hikers were to descend from the moraine, we were able to find a snow slope and create a slide, which all of us enjoyed immensely! As our last landing of the trip came to an end, we reluctantly boarded the Zodiacs to head back to the ship. Alas, the Expedition Team had another trick up its sleeve! We would be spending the rest of the day within Hornsund. As we enjoyed our lunch in the dining room, our Captain maneuvered the Prince Albert II through the ice and into Burgerbukta close to Mulbacherbreen, a extremely active glacier that we would spend the afternoon cruising in front of in the Zodiacs, enjoying the scenery and searching for that one last glimpse of the mighty beast we had all come with hopes of seeing.
Four of the expedition staff drove Zodiacs across Hornsund while we enjoyed our lunch, inspecting the cruising area. Would the amount of ice around prevent us from our planned fun? As we arrived in Burgerbukta we all flooded the outer decks as our Captain expertly worked his way through the ice. Thankfully, as we moved closer, the ice opened up and it was evident we would be able to Zodiac cruise after all. As the first group headed out, those of us onboard discussed Polar Bears and our hopes to see one more, and began to take note of what we had seen thus far.
As those who were on the first cruise arrived back to the warmth of the ship, those of us who were waiting began to chatter with excitement. What would the next hour bring? A slight delay as the amount of ice and wind made loading the Zodiacs difficult as our Captain needed to send Zodiacs away from the loading platform only half-full many times as pieces of ice ran down the side of Prince Albert II. Expertly, all worked well together and no damage was done as we headed out in the blustering winds.
Although we didn’t see what we later figured out would have been our fifteenth Polar Bear of the trip, all had a wonderful time and we were ready for this morning’s original plan for a lecture from Christian Walter on European voyages of discovery.
This evening at recap, our Expedition Leader, Conrad, told us more about the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which supports and develops the initiatives of public and private organizations and companies in the fields of research and studies, technological innovation, and socially-aware practices. Conrad told us that the Foundation specifically looks at areas of biodiversity, climate change, water provision in underdeveloped areas, and how global warming is affecting the world oceans. HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has a very deep sense of responsibility and a passion for environmental protection, and thus the creation of the Foundation. It is a fantastic opportunity for His Serene Highness to contribute to the environment. With the fact that Silversea’s ship has been named Prince Albert II and the very real commitment from Silversea Cruises to be an environmentally friendly operator, the choice was logical to team up with the Prince Albert II Foundation, raising awareness and funds for the projects that the Foundation is involved with. He informed us that this evening we would receive more information about the Foundation in our suites, and also a booklet with information on how to contribute to the worthy causes of the Foundation. He also reminded us to watch the video that continuously loops on our interactive television system to learn more about the Foundation.
Then, once again, it was time for another wonderful dinner with great company. What will tomorrow’s visit to Bjornoya bring us? Only time will tell.