''Expedition Svalbard'' Voyage 7113 Day 7

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Day 7 - June 29, 2011 - Nathorstbreen

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

 

Co-ordinates: 77º35’N, 13º58’W
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: 4.3C
Wind speed 35.3 km/h Northerly
Pressure 1011 hPa


At 5:30 this morning the Expedition Team was woken up with a telephone call from Robin, our Expedition Leader, to tell us that there was too much ice at Hornsund where we had planned to do some ice cruising. Although the wake up call was early, it was gratefully accepted, as it allowed us a couple more hours of sleep before we had to be on the Bridge to be on Polar bear lookout. Hornsund, near the Southern part of Svalbard is an area where we have often seen Polar bears and even though we had seen many in the first few days, we were hoping to find some on the ice.

All was not lost, as we started heading north again, up into Bellsund and on the way we came across a large pod of Beluga whales swimming very close to the ship. This was the second pod of Belugas we had seen on this trip and it was just as good the second time around. Belugas, the little white whale, are seldom seen and although they don’t show much of themselves (being like the two other purely Arctic whales, they don’t have dorsal fins) one could clearly see the white whales at the surface when they needed to breathe.

As it would take some time to get to our final destination of Nathorstbreen, we put on two lectures in the morning. The first was Peter Damisch who gave a lecture entitled “The Andree North Pole Expedition: Lost for 33 Years!” Peter took us through this major expedition seeking to be the first to reach the North Pole (via a leaking hydrogen balloon!) They sought to discover unknown lands and amidst tremendous publicity, floated off over the icy horizon . . . then disappeared into the cold void of the North. Their fate became a mystery that stirred years of future exploration. His lecture covered what happened to them, with the haunting photographic images accidently found decades later, scattered across the remote, snowy wilderness of the Arctic.

Half an hour later, Kara, our marine biologist, gave a lecture comparing the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. Guests always like to know the difference between the regions, as many would like to visit the Antarctic and wonder what the differences are.

In the afternoon, shortly after lunch, we had arrived at our destination, close to Nathorstbreen which has a massive glacier face, which one could see has been surging for the last few years and has retreated quite considerably. It was spectacular, nonetheless, with loads of sea ice for us to cruise through on the Zodiacs. Each group had an hour and a half cruising as close as the ice would allow, and we were just surrounded with seals, on the ice and in the water. Normally seals in the Arctic tend to move away quickly from the Zodiacs, these seals today were curious and when we turned the engines off, they came right up to the Zodiacs, popping their heads up, giving all the guests a thrill at seeing the wildlife so close to us. My favourite for the day, however, was the Ivory Gulls. This pure white little gull is a special bird found only in the Arctic and many birders come here specifically to see this bird (and are often unsuccessful). Well, after our sixth Ivory Gull, the guests in my boat didn’t believe it was so special any more. It is still one of the most touching moments to see the white ghostly gull flying in front of the glaciers.

Eventually, we headed back to the ship and a mere 45 minutes later we had Recap & Briefing, where the highlight was a short snippet from Kristine, our photographer, from the video that she is making of the trip. Well, before we knew it, another day was done and dusted as we headed off to The Restaurant for another fabulous meal from our Executive Chef, Norbert.



Tag 7 | June 29, 2011 | Ort Spitzbergen, Bellesund, Van Keulensfjord, Nathorst-Glacier
Klaus Günther, Ornithologe

Koordinaten: N 77.30.41, E 15.56.00
Wetter: Morgens bedeckt, mäßiger Wind aus Südwest und zeitweise Regen, ab mittags dann trocken und fast windstill, am späten Nachmittag Aufheiterungen. Abends auf dem Meer nur leichte Dünung und mäßiger Wind aus Nordwest, ca. 4°C.
Luftemperatur: 4°C
Wasssertemperatur: 1°C
Luftdruck: 1015 Pa
Wind: Morgens Südwest 8,5 km/h, nachmittags nördliche Winde 35 km/h.


Früh morgens erreichen wir den Süden Spitzbergens, wo wir im Hornsund die Eisflächen erkunden wollten. Dort ist aber dann zu viel Eis, welches uns den Weg versperrt. Daher wird umgekehrt und weiter nördlich der Bellsund angesteuert. Statt der Eisbärsuche auf Eis ab 6 Uhr können wir vom Expeditionsteam also noch ein paar Stunden schlafen, was an diesem Morgen sehr willkommen ist. Die zusätzliche Fahrtzeit auf See wird am Vormittag mit Vorträgen angereichert.

Als wir den Bellsund und Van Keulensfjord mit dem Nathorst-Gletscher erreichen, entdecken wir eine große Gruppe von 30-40 Belugas, die nicht weit entfernt vom Schiff die Küste entlang ziehen. Dies ist bereits unsere zweite Beobachtung dieser kleinen, weißen Wale, die nicht oft gesehen werden. Belugas und zwei weitere Kleinwalarten kommen nur in der Arktis vor und haben wegen ihrer Lebensweise im Eis keine Rückenflosse mehr.

Kurz nach dem Mittagessen erreichen wir den Bereich vor dem Nathorst-Gletscher, der eine mächtige, zerklüftete Eisfront zeigt. Seit vielen Jahren befindet sich dieser Gletscher bereits auf dem Rückzug. Mit Zodiacs fahren wir in zwei Gruppen jeweils für etwa 1,5 Stunden zwischen vielen Eisschollen hindurch bis zum Gletscherrand. Immer wieder lassen sich Bartrobben auf Eisschollen oder im Wasser beobachten. Zum Teil kommen sie sogar neugierig an die Zodiac Boote herangeschwommen, was sie sonst selten machen! Höhepunkt sind aber sicherlich die reinweißen nur in der hohen Arktis vorkommenden
Elfenbeinmöwen, die mit insgesamt etwa 20 Individuen am Gletscherrand zu sehen sind. Sie lassen sich aus geringer Distanz beobachten und fotografieren, sogar auch beim Fischen! Alle sind begeistert und es ist sicherlich einer der bewegendsten Momente, diese seltenen weißen Geschöpfe vor einem Gletscher zu sehen.

Zurück an Bord gibt es vor dem Abendessen noch eine Präsentation von Kristine, der Fotografin, die einen kurzen Ausschnitt aus ihrer Foto- und Filmdokumentation dieser Reise zeigt.

 

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