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Day 7 - August 8, 2010 - Farthest North

By Chris Srigley, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 80˚49’ N
Weather: Overcast
Sea Temperature: 0˚C

Sailing through the night, the Prince Albert II was in search of the ice edge and our furthest north for the voyage.

As I awoke in the middle of the night it was apparent we had met our first bit of drift ice as we had slowed down substantially along with the odd thud of a piece of ice as it hit and slid along the exterior of the ship.

Our first objective for the day was to do our best to find Polar Bears amongst the drift ice. With that in mind I headed for the Bridge and started to scan the horizon for our off-white-coloured friends. Spotting Polar Bears in any situation can be difficult but when you add in moving ice, a moving ship and the fact that more than your average amount of ice is dirty and coloured like a Polar Bear, it is not an easy task.

As the morning wore on it was not looking good for Polar Bears. However what was looking good was our farthest north on our voyage! Just before 10:00 Captain Aleksander Golubev turned the Prince Albert II to her port side and declared 80°49’N to be as far as we would be going. It was not that the ice before us prevented further exploration but the time we had in hand.

With this we turned south in search of a suitable location for our polar plunge! With a slight breeze, overcast skies and a water temperature of 0°C (32°F) it was not at first thought many would be taking part. But as the Prince Albert II was brought into a suitable location the line forming in Reception began to grow and grow. One by one our guests made the plunge, some opting to go for a second dip in the frigid waters before some of the crew onboard took their turn. The most notable of these being our Head Chef who chose, rather than a swimming suit, his entire uniform – chef’s hat and all – to take the plunge! In the end 32 guests were counted as taking dip, a new record!

As the plungers had a hot drink a warmed themselves, the deck crew were busy pulling in the side gate while the Prince Albert II began to push south in the direction of our afternoons destination: Crozierpynten.

With so many people taking the polar plunge we were running a bit late and needed to push on for our afternoon plans if we were to make it in time for this evening’s Venetian Society dinner.

Heading ashore this afternoon, Robin West, Juan Carlos and myself head south along the shore scouting one last time for Polar Bears while Daniil, Lasse and Karolina headed north to do the same. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, the rest of the staff headed ashore to prepare for our hour-long walks.

A polar desert by definition, this part of Svalbard can be very barren to the untrained eye. But as we walked along the true beauty, the subtleties of the Arctic tundra became evident to our guests. Permafrost pattering of stone circles and ice wedges made microclimates for polar willows, polar and moss campions. What at first seemed so barren soon left you watching every step to make sure you were not stepping on the vegetation.

With little time to spare we finished up with our landing and returned to the Prince Albert II in time for those who belonged to the Venetian Society to join Daniil in the Observation Lounge for a cocktail party before making their way to The Restaurant for another wonderful meal from the team in the galley.

With another wonderful day in my favorite part of the world under our belts we all headed to our beds with smiles on our faces and hopes that our luck would continue tomorrow with our planned visit to the stunning Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier).

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