Day 9 - June 12, 2013 - Svalbard

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 77º39.6’ N, 011º17.8’ E
Weather: Sunny 
Air Temperature: 1ºC
Pressure: 1010 hPa 
Wind: 13 knots

Slightly rougher seas in the morning caused many onboard the Silver Explorer to have a slow start today. The Restaurant during breakfast was a quiet and peaceful place and the first lecture which started at 10:00 was also sparsely attended at the beginning, though more and more trickled in lured there by the topic – polar bears!

Being that we had a day at sea, there was time today to attend lectures, wander the open decks in the crisp cold air, and also sleep a bit more, catch up with sorting photos and reading books and generally relaxing. The air outside had dropped to a frigid one degree Celsius, and light snow flurries fell during the course of the morning to clear up in to sunshine and clear conditions around noon. In the distance, we could see the snowy peaks of Svalbard. Kittiwakes and fulmars flew around the ship.

The chef put on a marvellous cooking demonstration just before lunch that left our mouths watering. After lunch, the lecture program continued with a talk from Hans Peter about the botany of the arctic regions and then later Robin our Expedition Leader gave a briefing about our plans for the following day and our hopes of encountering polar bears and ice. That was followed by Robin Aiello’s lecture on weird and interesting lesser-known marine creatures.

We continued to watch the magnificent snowy peaks of Svalbard as we cruised with Prins Karls Foreland (a large island on the western side of the Svalbard archipelago) on our starboard side. A lot of snow covered the slopes and shores and we admired this wild and remote and somewhat forbidden-looking and desolate landscape.

Our plans changed later in the day and dinner was brought forward by one hour because of the good speed we had made during the day on our way north. We now had a bit of time to spare and so the decision was made to turn into Magdalenefjord on the northwest coast for a bit of a scenic ship cruise in the evening.

Magdalanefjord cuts 10 km into the coast from the western side as is about 2 km wide. Used frequently by whalers during the 17th century, both Pomors and Norwegian trappers later followed the whalers into this fjord to exploit the biological resources there. It is known as one of the most scenic spots in all of Svalbard.

After an early dinner, we headed outside onto the outer decks to take in the sharp cold air and admire as the Silver Explorer approached the entrance to Magdalenefjord. The wind was fierce and even bundled up in all possible layers it was positively freezing cold outside. Nevertheless, it was worth it for the views of the fjord and the glaciers that spilled their smooth blue icy walls into the sea. We passed a small piece of land with a lonely old trappers hut on it. At the back of the fjord we stopped, as we could go no further. Just before turning around to head out again the glacier rewarded us with a large chunk calving off into the sea and creating a massive wave that rushed along the shoreline.

On the way back out of the fjord, we turned a bit towards the port side and got a look at some walruses that were lying in a heap on the far shore of a small spit of land. They weren’t positioned in a place where it was easy to see them at all, but those with binoculars managed to get a glimpse of these massive brown beasts resting on the shore side oblivious to the freezing cold wind that caused us all to eventually scurry back inside for a hot drink.