Day 4 |
Jun 26, 2009

Poolepynten / Alkhornet

By Stefan Kredel, Geologist

Co-ordinates: 78° 27.2’N / 11° 52.3’ E

Weather: cloudy, overcast

Air temperature: 2°C

Air pressure: 1016

Early in the morning we arrived at Poolepynten on Prins Karls Forland. The weather was pretty cloudy, but as there was no wind, we can consider that as good weather. The reason to come here was, as Conrad told us yesterday evening in the Recap, to see some walruses ashore. The place is well known to be one of the big walrus haul-outs.

Once we came ashore, we were instructed to stay in our group and go as a group to the haul-out. The reason for that was that along the way between all the drift wood, there are some nesting arctic terns, and we didn’t want to disturb them. Besides that, it could become quite dangerous when they start “sky bombing” in case we would get too close to their nests.

So when we moved as groups down the beach, we were stopped by a group of animals, as they blocked our way, and there was no chance to pass them without disturbing. But it was anyhow an amazing sighting, to see the interaction between those four animals. We had here three males and one female, which could be easily identified by the different shapes of their tusks. Also in the water we could see some animals, and it seemed that they were a bit curious what all the “red-parka things” were doing ashore. As a bit farther away there was a far bigger haul-out, which we couldn’t get to. Conrad decided that we will pass this place with our Zodiacs on our way back to the Prince Albert II.

It was an amazing outing this morning and I am sure that some of our guests could make a movie with all the hundreds of photos they took …

Our aim for the afternoon was a place called Alkhornet. The name refers to the shape of the mountain, which resembles a horn, and its inhabitants, the Alkets. So this cliff we visited was home of a huge seabird colony with several thousand pairs of birds, mainly Kittiwakes and Brünich’s guillemots. But already the small walk to the cliff was great as we walked over a nice tundra where already some flowers could be seen, mainly different species of saxifrages. Also the tundra showed us some nice examples of the permafrost, but I guess only those guests walking with the geologist were told a lot (too much?) about it. Nice patterns of polygon rings could be seen from the upper part looking backward. But also some fauna was seen, beside the birds. Lots of reindeer were around, and it was quite obvious that they didn’t care about us as they came pretty close toward us. Some of us were even lucky enough to see a polar fox. But even without seeing the fox, it was definitely a great landing with a nice example of tundra and a very populated bird cliff.

When the last of us came back on board, it was already around 19:00 and most went straight after a shower to The Restaurant, and afterwards many enjoyed a drink in The Bar.

As our place for tomorrow morning was pretty close, in the evening Captain Peter decided to do a small, ship’s sightseeing tour into Grønfjord. This fjord leaves the Isfjord in a southerly direction. And Grønfjord is home to the only still-active Russian coal mine in Svalbard. The place is called Barentsburg and looking at the small settlement, today with about 400 inhabitants, it looks very Russian …