Day 7 |
Jul 20, 2009

St. Jonsfjord, Svalbard

By Christian Walter, Ethnohistorian

Co-ordinates: 78 degrees 31’ 50” N, 12 degrees 53’08” E

Weather: partially cloudy, very little wind

Air Temperature: 3,7 C

Pressure: 1002 hPa

After a bumpy night, Expedition Leader Robin’s announcement that we had arrived came as a relief. We were anchored in St. Jonsfjord close to Gaffelbreen, and our program indicated that we would be going on hikes. A hearty breakfast therefore seemed like a good idea.

Once the bear-guides/guards had gone off in the scout-Zodiacs to search the area surrounding our landing-site for possible bears – we just had to remember that yesterday’s bear had been going inland after he had come ashore - it was time for the staff to go ashore as well. By eight o’clock the “long hikers” followed us; almost exactly half of the guests of group 1 and 4 intended to take the longer hike (2.5 hours approx.) and we took off with Chris Srigley as our personal bear-guard, leading the hike up to the first plateau. A few reindeer were seen, but they soon disappeared. Once on the second ridge, we were joined by Lasse, our official Norwegian bear-guard, and off we went to have a closer look at Gaffelbreen.

The hike was not too strenuous, and every once in a while we stopped for plants –which grew in very nice formations and great numbers. After about ninety minutes we reached a good look-out for the glacier, and cameras clicked away….

The return was somewhat more difficult, as we took a different route and the final descent was quite steep.

In the meantime, our fellow travelers of groups 1 and 4 had taken a short hike, ending the morning with a Zodiac-cruise towards the glacier. Those long-hikers bent on having a closer look at the glacier were given their chance as well, and by noon everybody was back on board.

Groups 2 and 3 had stayed on board and had had the opportunity to learn more about “Climate Change”, a lecture given by Claudia Holgate, where she described the phenomenon and some of the misconceptions that usually occur when such a “hot” topic is discussed. Robin Aiello, on the other hand, shared some of the secrets about how marine mammals have adapted to survive –how they find food, stay warm and communicate with one another in her lecture aptly titled “Marine Mammals”. Both lectures were repeated during the afternoon for groups 1 and 4, while it was then time for groups 2 and 3 to go on one of the hikes.

Instead of Lasse, this time it was Rune who accompanied Chris Srigley, Chris Collins, Juan Restrepo, Hans Peter Reinthaler, the Doctor and myself on the long hike. The weather had actually improved somewhat, and once in a while patches of blue were seen in the sky.

Everybody was back by 5 o’clock, and tea or coffee were waiting (together with delicious finger-food, cookies and tarts) in the Panorama Lounge, before it was time for yet another Recap & Briefing in The Theatre. Plants seen, the weather responsible for them, names given to islands and sites were just some of the topics discussed during recap; Robin then gave us the ‘bad’ news: yesterday’s bumpy road would have been considered good compared to tonight’s country lane…

We would be going into the waves and winds, as soon as we would round the southern tip of King Karls Forland, heading north for the 80th degree, and some of the spectacular Fjords on the northern shore of Spitsbergen. All valuable equipment (computers, cameras, etc.) was to be secured on the floors, and seasickness pills to be taken if prone to motion-sickness….

By the time The Restaurant opened, the first waves started to hit us sideways, and the ride was on, but we are confident the Prince Albert II will perform well, and we will make it to 80 degrees North by tomorrow afternoon.