''Expedition Svalbard II'' Voyage 7116 Day 7

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Day 7 - July 29, 2011 - Hinlopen Strait, Svalbard

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: 79º 00’ 45” N, 020º 11’ 20” E
Weather: Overcast and foggy
Air Temperature: +1ºC
Pressure: 1024 hPa
Wind: Calm


The first thing I noticed when I got up this morning was that the sunshine we had enjoyed yesterday was gone, or perhaps I should say it was hidden by a rather thick fog and an overcast sky. This is more normal weather for this part of the world, and I love it, it gives a rather moody atmosphere to the place, and when combined with flat seas, I find it actually quite soothing.

Under poor visibility and less ice than we had expected, we sailed through the mist south into the Bearsund, a narrow strait that separates Spitsbergen from the Willhelmoya Islands, on the south-western side of the Hinlopen Strait.

At 11 am our Zoologist Kara Weller gave a great lecture on Polar Bears, entitled, Polar Bears… premonitory?

We got to the southern end of Bearsund, after the Captain sailed the ship with surgical precision through some narrow passages between numerous skerries and small islands. Rather tricky navigation I must say – and when we finished coming around Wilhelmoya, the decision was made to backtrack up north while we had lunch; after all we knew there wasn’t too much ice that way and we could make good progress and not waste much time going through potentially icy waters in thick fog by going the other route.

At 14:30 Franz Gingele, one of our Geologists, gave a lecture on glaciers entitled “Glaciers and Ice Caps”. Great lecture by Franz and very appropriate as we have already seen some quite spectacular glaciers and we have some more coming up.

Halfway through his lecture our Bear Guard Chris Srigley spotted a bear! It was a great sighting as this big male bear was on the sea ice, which is not quite the usual place where we see them. Normally we spot bears on land, but to see them on the ice, resting or hunting, was something quite special. The light was great for photos and by then the fog had lifted and the sky was blue. Big Wow factor!

The afternoon was rather chilly and the Expedition Team kept a close lookout for more polar bears, and sure enough, a couple hours later our Expedition Leader Robin West spotted two more bears on the ice! This time it was a mother with her two-year-old cub. They were lying down on the ice and as they got up and walked around we could see their reflections on the puddles of the ice floe. It was a wonderful viewing as they walked around a bit and then took to the water and went for a swim. What an afternoon!

At 18:15 the Expedition Team held a Recap & Briefing, earlier than usual, because just before dinner Captain Alexander Golubev would bring us close to Alkefjellet, a breathtaking bird cliff made of dolerite (a volcanic rock), next to deep water so he could bring the bow of the Silver Explorer quite close to the birds. There were tens of thousands of Guillemots cluttering the ledges on the rock, sitting on the water and flying back and forth. A sight to behold!

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