A cloudy sky was covering the Krossfjorden in the morning when the Prince Albert II anchored near the 14th of July Glacier. Due to the glacier, the bird cliffs and the vegetation found at this site it is considered of one of the most scenic landscape in the Svalbard archipelago.
At 7.00 am our scout boats were sent out to check the area and declare it Polar Bear free. All shore gear was taken on land and soon afterwards the embarkations of the guests took place.
We offered two walks for our guests. One was leading to and up the 14th of July Glacier and the other was going over to the botanical area with the dramatic bird cliffs above. Guests had enough time to do both walks without rush.
My colleagues, Juan Restrepo and Chris Srigley, told me that the scenery on the glacier was very dramatic from the geological point of view. Additionally some big calving took place on its front. With an extraordinarily sound that filled the entire fjord, big chunks of ice fell off and crashed into the water. I think our guests really enjoyed staying on a glacier as it also was the first time for some of them.
To the other side there was this interesting walk to the botanical site and the bird cliffs. First, in the way over to the bird cliffs, you have this lush tundra vegetation with the Tufted Saxifrage, Purple Saxifrage and the Moss Campion. Getting closer to the area where the bird cliffs are, the vegetation becomes even more diverse due to the fertilization from the bird cliffs above and good drainage of water. So further up the slope, one finds the Scurvy Grass and Mountain Sorrel and then there is a nice so-called “hanging garden” with exuberant moss vegetation, five different species of Saxifrage, Arctic Mouse Ear, Black Fleabane and Polar Dandelion. From the botanical point of view, the site is a real treasure.
Also the fauna was quite impressive as we were able to see one Arctic Fox in his summer fur. It was wonderful to observe him running along the cliffs with ease and searching for food. This time he was lucky and found a carcass on the ground between the vegetation. He sat down and was chewing for a while on his meal of the day. After he finished, he strolled along the cliffs and out of our sight.
On the bird cliff there was still a lot of activity going on and so you were able to observe Kittywakes, Guillemots, Glaucous Gulls and even Puffins were flying around. They had their nesting sites on cliffs down near the beach. On the slope, Pink footed Geese and Barnacle Geese were feeding between the grasses. Snow Buntings, an adult and his chick were hopping around feeding on what is still left over from the summer in the arctic. From the willow with its yellow leaves and from most of the plants, which had already their fruits and were not flowering anymore, one could tell easily that autumn was coming to Svalbard. Around midday the sun was coming through the clouds and made it an unforgettable autumn day at the 14th of July Glacier.
In the afternoon, the Prince Albert II crossed over to Kongsfjorden to visit the village of Ny Alesund. The Expedition Staff was positioned all over the town to give indications and information to our guests. One colleague at the Post Office, the other one at the shop, our geologist Juan Restrepo at the museum, Christian Walter and Colleen Batey our historians positioned themselves one at the monument of Amundsen and the other at mast where the airship of Amundsen started its voyage to the pole.
It was a chilly and windy afternoon in Ny Alesund, but guests were enthusiastic about sending home a postcard from the northernmost post office in the world, doing some souvenir shopping and getting information about this very important historical site. I think our guests were really satisfied with the first expedition day on the vessel.
Back on board again, our guests were invited to the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party in The Theatre and to the following Captain’s Dinner in The Restaurant.
The delicious Captain’s dinner was not yet over as our Expedition Leader Robin West made the announcement that a Polar Bear was spotted on the shore. 15 minutes later the Expedition Team was ready and our guests had their first sight of two Polar Bears in their natural habitat: this beautiful place on earth called the Arctic.