Day 4 |
Jul 17, 2009

Diskobukta And Kap Lee

By Claudia Holgate, Environmentalist

Co-ordinates: 78o 08’ 53”
20 o 45’ 30”

Temperature –0.18oC, 28.6oF

Wind between 2 and 46km

Pressure 1008Hpa, humidity

When we woke up this morning we had no idea of the excitement that the day would hold. The day started out pretty cold with a strong wind and fairly choppy seas, but that was not enough to deter us from our first landing at Diskobukta -- an amazing canyon cut into the side of a mountain, which is the home to tens of thousands of nesting kittiwakes. The Black legged Kittiwake is a small gull, which if one uses one’s imagination gets its name from its call. Clearly my imagination wasn’t good enough, because as I entered the canyon I could see, hear and smell the thousands of birds, but alas, none of them sounded as if they were calling their own names. Nevertheless, the mass of birds was an assault on the senses and we just sat down and watched as the birds flew around, fighting, talking and looking after their chicks. Kittiwakes are a favourite food for the Arctic fox and we were fortunate enough to see a mother fox feeding her young with a Kittiwake that she had caught in the canyon.  Juan, the geologist, otherwise known as the “Rockstar of Diskobukta” gave everyone a detailed interpretation of the changes in the landscape due to the permafrost, including showing everyone my favourite rock formation due to freezing, called “Trolls bread”. The site was also very interesting with whale bones, probably from Blue Whales, killed during the whaling period in Svalbard. So after an eventful morning, we headed back to the ship to have another fabulous lunch spread before our afternoon programme.

We arrived at Kap Lee shortly after 13h00 and the scouting party went out to check the site for Polar Bears, especially as in the previous voyage it was here that guests had to be quickly evacuated due to a Bear making its way towards the landing site. Kap Lee, however, is known for its Walrus haul-out and that is what we wanted to go and see. The scouting party, however, found no walrus on the shore and we decided that our time would be better spent looking for Polar Bears in Freemansund. By this point all the Zodiacs had been launched and we were about to haul the boats back onto the ship when we were told to stay on the water as one of the crew was very ill and had to be airlifted to the nearest hospital, which is in Longyearbyen. So we all spent the next hour watching as a helicopter came and very skilfully picked up the patient by hoisting up the stretcher while the helicopter hovered over the ship. Once we were able to send up the Zodiacs, we started cruising Freemansund and we had only just started our cruise when the shout for a Polar bear came through the radio. On a small island ahead of the ship was an adult male, so with no time to waste, all Zodiacs were lowered again and we loaded the guests for some fabulous views of the bear from about 50m away. Eventually, the bear tired of our attention and lay down, at which point we headed back to the ship at about 7pm, where we enjoyed another delectable meal.

What a day, jam packed with excitement and interesting sights. It was our first good view of a Polar bear and we wait in anticipation for what tomorrow may bring.