Day 5 |
Jul 28, 2009

Fuglesangen, Svalbard, Norway

By Christian Walter, Ethnohistorian

Co-ordinates: 79 degrees 50’ N, 11 degrees 0’ E

Weather: mostly overcast, very little wind

Air Temperature:  6C

Pressure: 1009 hPa

Wind: 12 km/h

This morning we had entered Smeerenburgfjord not to find shelter from any winds as we had done during a former voyage, but for a short-cut to Fuglesangen and an expedition experience unique to this area: a close view of a thriving Little Auk colony. Our Expedition Leader Robin had promised fantastic viewing opportunities at the south side of “Birdsong” –the English translation of the local name ‘Fuglesangen/Fuglesongen’ (both names appear in the literature and on maps).

The landing was onto a boulder beach, which had posed quite a challenge the last time we had come, and was done under calm conditions. Despite some slippery rocks on the way up the beach, everyone coming ashore managed fine with a little help from staff-members positioned along the way up towards ‘terra firma’. The morning had a crisp feeling to it, and even the slowest walkers were within sight of the Little Auks after less than 30 minutes.

Chris Srigley, Chris Collins and Claudia Holgate (the designated ‘bird-people’) had set up a perimeter for better viewing and to minimize the disturbance of the birds – the Little Auks eventually just ignored us. Zodiac groups one and two were the first to come and were split into smaller groups of 16 to 20 guests in each group.

The walk was over mossy terrain interspersed with numerous rocks, but otherwise quite pleasant. As soon as we had settled down to watch the birds come and go, beautiful photo opportunities arose, and hundreds of shots, well, pictures, were taken. We could see the birds from just a few feet away, one guest spotting an Arctic Fox as well! The entrances to the nests (little caves created by rocks on the scree slope) were quite small so that only the birds and not the foxes could enter.

Robin had decided to give every group two hours ashore, so that groups three and four came at 10 o’clock. By this time, the tide had started to fall (officially it was supposed to be high-tide at 11 o’clock), and more and more slippery rocks were visible at the beach. Fortunately, all guests were sure-footed. Both groups made good use of their time, observing the Little Auks, and taking in the landscape around us.

When it was time to head back to the Prince Albert II for lunch, the sun had come out enough for The Outdoor Grill to attract hot dog and hamburger lovers for lunch.

The distance to our next destination was just 17 miles, and barely had we finished lunch when we arrived in front of Bruceneset and our next stop at Alicehamna. This was all the more amazing as we had been unable to reach this far into Raudfjord during former expeditions, as there had been so much ice that we had always been stopped miles further out!

At 02:30 p.m. members of the Expedition Team boarded our Zodiac, heading out to inspect the area new to us. The visit ashore (after our bear guards Lasse and Rune had checked the site for bears) gave us an opportunity to look for different walking/hiking options, but we were surprised to find not only a yacht, but also a campsite occupied by other Svalbard visitors. We gave their site a wide berth, and went to a lookout point instead. Beautiful views of the fjord, lakes and mountains were had! The terrain was uneven and extremely rocky, but nonetheless almost every guest chose to come ashore for a walk.

The return to the Prince Albert II was so late that Recap & Briefing had to be postponed by half an hour. The first item on today’s recap menu was a “funny” animated cartoon from New Zealand with subtitles supplied by Rob Suisted, supposedly showing the difficulty in understanding Ozzy (Aussie) and Kiwi English. Many wondered not only what was being said, but also what was so humorous about it, that our Ozzy (=Robin Aiello) and Kiwi (=Rob Suited) laughed so much…

At 07:50 p.m. Chris Srigley and I joined a very entertaining table in The Restaurant. Dinner topics ranged from pets and pet passports, to tattooing, to Easter Island, to race car driving, traveling (!), Antarctica, smoking, living healthy, Antarctica, and at times there were three different conversations going on. Two hours of excellent dinner went by in a flash…

Eventually it was time to retreat and start the log, and to get ready for another exciting expedition morning (looking for whales and Polar Bears), and an afternoon visit to Monacobreen.