Day 9 - July 7, 2010 - Magaroya Island And Nordkapp, Norway

By Victoria Salem, Historian

Co-ordinates: 71°07’N – 025°52’E (Noon position)
Weather: Overcast, but good visibility and warm; a little rain towards evening
Air temperature: +14°C

We arrived at our anchoring spot just off Magaroya Island around 9am today and got ready for a Zodiac cruise. The Prince Albert II was so close to the bird cliffs that many guests were able to enjoy excellent viewing from their suites and verandas, but of course the Zodiacs enabled us to approach even closer.

Starting at 9.30am, the first groups were soon skimming over a calm ocean towards the nearest nesting birds – common guillemots. There were clouds of birds circling overhead too and as usual with these comical black-and-white birds, their antics trying to take off from the surface of the water were amusing to watch. We were lucky enough to spot the much sought-after white-tailed sea eagles soon after beginning our cruise, up to six at one time, gliding much lower along the cliff face than we had ever seen before, often landing on rocky headlands well within camera range!

As our Zodiac tour continued, we came into kittiwake territory and what a noise they made! An opening in the rock face led into a deep cleft full of nesting birds, with a constant to-ing and fro–ing from the depths of the rock to the sea. And when we looked down into the clear, unpolluted water, we could see several different kinds of jellyfish drifting with the current. Most were pinkish ovals (ctenophore) and we saw one larger lion’s mane jellyfish – amazing.

As we left kittiwake central, we saw several seal heads in the water – difficult to be sure from such a brief sighting, but probably grey seals; we got tantalizing glimpses of them throughout both Zodiac cruises, though never for more than a few moments. Soon we were heading for a raft of hundreds of puffins, motionless on the surface of the water. We were delighted to see so many together and spent some time in their company, benefiting from the occasional fly-past.

Our final stop was at the gannet nesting site; these large, yellow-headed birds were extremely vocal and active, bringing home materials to build ever bigger and better homes. They were crowded together in rows along the cliff face and the smell was pretty overwhelming!

The change over between groups took place shortly after 11am and just after 12.30pm we were all back on board and enjoying lunch. Soon after lunch we reached Hornvika and were out on deck again to admire the distinctive “rhino’s horn” rock formation.

At about 2.15pm guests opting for the strenuous hike to Nordkapp disembarked by Zodiac to retrace the traditional route to the cape, up a winding zigzag path to the cliff top 300 m above and then a further 15 minutes along the road. Until 1956 when the road was built, this climb was the only way to get to the plateau of Nordkapp. Other guests chose to arrive in comfort by bus from the small fishing village of Skarsvag, “most northerly fishing village in the world”. Both groups spotted reindeer grazing on the hill slopes and were rewarded upon arrival by good views from off the top of Europe.

There were a number of possible activities to choose from; outside in the open air we were able to inspect the famous globe more closely, admire the glorious scenery, or visit the “mother and child” sculpture with its associated works by the Children of the World.

Once inside Nordkapp’s complex of buildings there were several more options available. There was of course a large and well-stocked shop, and the cinema downstairs screened several showings of a short Nordkapp movie, full of beautiful images. As we wandered along the sloping corridor three floors down, the history of Nordkapp was captured in dioramas, representing famous early visitors to this spot. I spent some quiet moments in the small chapel off to the right of the corridor. The interior was starkly simple, with walls designed to look like bird cliffs, complete with candles dripping wax to simulate the white stains below their nests, precisely as we’d seen on this morning’s Zodiac cruise.

Next I stopped off at the tiny (and unexpected) Thai museum, which commemorates the King of Siam’s long-ago visit to Nordkapp. Finally I found myself at the end of the building, sipping a glass of champagne and enjoying the view from the look-out platform of the King’s Bar.

Buses departed for Skarsvag and the ship from 5pm onwards and we stopped on the way back to visit Nils’ Sami encampment. The man himself was not at home, but the shop was being minded by his two sons, who introduced us to one of their many reindeer as he munched his dinner of lichens and moss. The last bus arrived back at Skarsvag just as it started to rain and we were glad to be shuttled from shore to ship before we had a chance to get wet, for our pre-dinner cocktail.

Dinner was served at 7.30pm. Just before, Stefan and I met Hans in the Panorama Lounge and together we raised a toast to a good day at the tip of northern Norway.

Emilio took an enforced break from piano-playing this evening during the World Cup Germany versus Spain match. The one-nil victory to Spain was a disappointment to German guests and staff alike, but nevertheless we enjoyed sharing the match’s exciting moments together and stayed on for a drink afterwards, to talk both about soccer and about our day at Magaroya Island and Nordkapp.

TAG 9 | Juli 7, 2010 | Magaroya, Nordkapp
von Petra Glardon, Zoologin

Koordinaten: 71°07’N, 25°52’E
Wetter: bewoelkt

Heute war ein ganz toller Tag!! Vormittags fand eine geniale Zodiac-Tour um eine kleine Vogelinsel statt, die fuer Vogelfreunde ein richtiges Paradies ist!! Was gab es alles zu sehen!! Allein 800.000 Papageitaucher sollen hier brueten (laut Nordkapp Tour guide)! Sie flogen immer wieder ueber unsere Koepfe, aber so schnell, dass man sie kaum erkennen konnte, die bunten Schnaebel. Aber Christian pirschte sich mit dem Zodiac an einen ganzen Schwarm an, der auf dem spiegelglatten Wasser sass (es muessen hunderte von Voegeln gewesen sein!). So war es uns moeglich die Tiere tatsaechlich aus der Naehe zu sehen und auch ein paar schoene Fotos zu machen.

Weiterhin gab es jede Menge Kraehenscharben, Moewen jeglicher Art (Dreizehen-, Silber-, Mantel-), Trottellumme, Tordalken, 1 Austernfischer – ueberall wimmelte es!! Die Hauptattraktion neben den Papageitauchern waren zum einen die enorme Anzahl Seeadler (das glaubt man ja fast nicht!) und die Basstoelpel-Kolonie. Seeadler gab es so viele, dass wir zum Schluss schon gar nicht mehr richtig hinsahen, wenn wieder einer vorbeiflog!! Irre, einfach irre!

Aiello erzaehlte mir spaeter, sie habe mit dem Fernglas beobachten koennen wie ein Seeadler sich einen Papageitaucher schnappte, der gerade aus seiner Hoehle kam! Und in einem anderen Zodiac wurde man Zeuge eines Mordes an einem Kormoran! Die Leiche zog dann weitere Seeadler an, so dass wir auf der zweiten Tour gleich sechs solcher Viecher auf einmal auf engstem Raum sehen konnten (das Opfer blieb allerdings im Verborgenen). Das groesste Highlight fand ich jedoch die Basstoelpel. Sie sind sooo wunderschoen und elegant! Und dann gleich eine ganze Kolonie – das ist schon etwas ganz Besonderes!!

Nach dem Mittagessen wurden 66 wanderlustige Gaeste in Hornvika ausgebootet, die dann 300 Hoehenmeter zu Fuss bewaeltigt haben und anschliessend zum „Nordkapp“ gelaufen sind, sprich zum Besucherzentrum oben auf einer Klippe. Das eigentliche Nordkapp ist naemlich gar nicht genau dort – aber wen stoert es?

Ich hatte sidegate duty und bin dann mit den nicht-wanderlustigen Gaesten im Bus gefahren, von Skarvag aus. Eine etwa viertelstuendige Fahrt und dann war man oben auf der Klippe. Dort steht auch das bekannte Geruest mit der Weltkugel, vor dem sich jeder Tourist mindestens einmal fotografieren laesst – und ich auch! Die Sicht war gut und man konnte bis unten auf das Wasser blicken – das ist wohl gar nicht selbstverstaendlich (Stichwort Nebel)!

Es gab ein Glas Sekt unten in der Bar und einen 15-minuetigen Panorama-Film ueber die Gegend, fast in 3-D und sehr schoen gemacht. Auch die kleine Kapelle war nett, mit dem Kerzenwachs auf den rohen Felsen, dem Vogelguano nachempfunden.

Auf der Rueckfahrt der obligatorische Foto-Stopp bei Niels und Anna. Sie fuehren Rentiere und Sami-Zelte vor, sind in Sami-Tracht gekleidet im traditionellen Stil der Vorfahren – „und nehmen auch gerne Kreditkarten entgegen“ (Originalton Stefan).

Bei Regen die letzte Zodiac-Fahrt zurueck auf das Schiff, Abendessen und abgehacktes (TV-Signal!) public viewing in der Bar. Das Resultat natuerlich ein Reinfall und wird auch nicht kommentiert. Andere dagegen waren happy und die Stimmung insgesamt ausgelassen nach diesem ereignisreichen Tag!