Day 8 |
Jul 07, 2008

Cruise & Explore Svalbard Liefdefjorden

By Claudia Holgate, Environmental Scientist

“Polar Bear, Polar Bear!” came the cry from the bridge shortly after midnight on Monday. A Polar bear watch had been set up through the night to scan the shore for any sign of Polar bear, as this was the “holy grail” of the trip. Our observant ornithologist, Brent, had just taken over from our two Bear Men (Jan and Geir), when he spotted a female Polar bear with a cub on shore. They were fairly far away, but by looking through the binoculars, one could get a really good look at them as they tucked into their seal dinner. Our Expedition Leader, Conrad, dropped a scout boat to see if we could get the guests any closer to the bears, but alas, the bears were behind a rise which obscured any chance we had of seeing them from the sea. Conrad tried valiantly to get his Zodiac over a land bridge, which may have allowed us to get closer, but the combination of a dropping tide and the call that there was a male Polar bear in the vicinity forced him to give up on that idea. So, with much reluctance, the Zodiac crew came back on board to join the rest of the guests watching the bears from a distance. After a short time, the male bear that had been spotted along the shore chased the female and cub off their food and started eating the leftovers. We all had a good opportunity of nearly two hours watching the bears and it was certainly a highlight, until the afternoon.

The morning was devoted to a Zodiac cruise around Lifedefjorden, where we could take in vistas of the ice and birds. We saw Northern Fulmer, Common Eider and there was even a shout of King Eider, which is a special of the area. The Artic terns were flying next to the Zodiac and diving for food, which made for a close-up spectacle. Liefdefjorden, which is the Dutch name from the 17th century meaning “Love Bay”, is 13 kilometres wide and has spectacular scenery of red sandstone that is weathered into smooth round shapes, which were visible on the Zodiac cruise and from the ship.

In the afternoon, we moved towards Monacobreen, which is a massive glacier within Liefdefjorden, named after Duke Albert I of Monaco who led the expeditions that mapped the Glacier in 1906/1907. We all felt some sense of belonging as we are travelling on the Prince Albert II. The glacier was huge, especially when up next to it in our tiny Zodiacs, which made us feel really insignificant. While on the Zodiac cruise, the call came through from the bridge, “We have a Polar bear about 3 miles away, along the shoreline”. No further encouragement was needed as five Zodiacs went racing along to another glacier where the Polar bear had been sighted. There he was, a single bear walking along the shoreline, seemingly without a care in the world. Being in Zodiacs meant that we could get close enough to get a good look without causing him any disturbance. He was so relaxed that he stopped along the beach to have a nap, during which time we could collect the other guests still on the ship to ensure that everybody had a really good look. Eventually the Polar bear woke up and wandered off again along the shoreline, by which time we had to make our way back to the ship.

Once on the ship and warm again, we all moved into The Theatre for the briefing for the next day. This was followed by a highly anticipated debate between our Climatologist, Claudia, and our Geologist, Stefan, on whether global warming was a natural phenomenon or if it was caused by human activities. Each side was allowed 5 minutes to present their case and a further minute for rebuttal, followed by questions from the audience. Claudia stated the case that is was caused by climate change and presented figures indicating that we have changed the composition of the atmosphere by 35% where the level of carbon dioxide reached a level higher than ever recorded within the last 420 000 years. Stefan’s argument was based on uncertainty, where he maintained that there was insufficient data to be able to make a clear statement regarding the cause for climate change, although he did admit that the climate is changing. The debate was highly interactive and made for great dinnertime conversation. Overall, today was amazing, with spectacular views, Polar bear sightings, good weather and fantastic conversations. Just another day on a Silversea Expedition.