Day 2 |
Jul 05, 2009

Bear Island, Svalbard

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 74°21.7’N, 019°09.8E

Weather: overcast in the morning, sunny in the afternoon

Air Temperature: 2C

I woke up at 07.00 hours and went up to the Observation Lounge to have coffee and look out for some birds and maybe whales, as we are now in a whale area. Unfortunately the sea was a little bit rough and therefore the conditions for observing whales were not favorable. What I saw was a sailing boat on our portside heading also northwards. Just after nine, there was an AECO and Zodiac briefing in The Theater.

The next daily programme event was the “First-Timers Cocktail Party” this time in The Theater as there were 100 “First Timers” onboard. As the sea was a little bit rough at this moment, only 40 guests showed up to the party.

After a delicious lunch in The Restaurant, I went to the lecture of my colleague Chris Collons on the “Birds of Svalbard”. An excellent preparation for our afternoon excursion, which took us to the southern cliffs of Bear Island. It was around 15.00 hours when suddenly the clouds disappeared and Bear Island laid just in front of us in bright sunshine. At quarter past four, all Zodiacs were ready and we could start the excursions.

Going along the cliffs is really one of the most spectacular views up here in the north. Our guests enjoyed this Zodiac ride that brought them first into limestone caves washed out by the action of the waves over thousands of years, and then took them along the cliffs where innumerous birds were nesting. The most common are Brünnichs Guillemot, Common Guillemot and Kittiwake. Additionally we could also observe Black Guillemots, Glaucous Gull, Northern Fulmar, Great Black Back Gull, some Razorbills and a pair of Atlantic Puffins nesting in a small rounded rock crack. Just when we were going with our Zodiacs around a corner, there was a pair of Glaucous Gulls sitting on a rock outcrop with their three chicks. All three still with their juvenile down feathers and waiting for the parents to feed them. Also interesting is that you can find the two morphs of Northern Fulmar in this area. One is the white morph and the other one is the brown morph, which, as the Prince Albert II is going further north, becomes more abundant than the white morph. Some of the Common Guillemots are showing their bridal morph with a white stripe above the eye and white eye rings.

In one bay just near the most southern tip of the island, a shipwreck is stranded on the shore beneath the cliffs. It is a Russian cargo ship that got stranded about two months ago due to the irresponsibility of the captain and crew. The scenery has a little kind of magic when you see the shipwreck, the tall cliffs and the waves crashing against them, but as we are in a nature reserve the wreck will be removed by summer and the birds will have their cliffs again for their own.