Day 4 - June 29, 2013 - Burgerbukta, Gnalodden, Hornsund, Svalbard
By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist
Co-ordinates: 77°02´N, 15°59´E
Weather: cloudy and rainy
Air Temperature: 4° C
The M/v Silver Explorer reached her anchorage position in Hornsund at 7.30 am. Sea conditions were good for a nice Zodiac tour towards the glacier front of Mühlbacherbreen. Only weather conditions were not really favorable: low clouds covering the tops of the mountains, like for example the Hornsundtind, the third highest mountain (1431m) in Svalbard towering above the southern coast line of the Hornsund and it also was raining. Nevertheless guests were ready for their first adventure; an approximately one and a half hour to the glaciers, driving around blue icebergs and observing the bird fauna in this fjord. Little Auks, Black Guillemots, Common Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Eider Ducks and Glaucous Gulls could be observed. In the meantime, while guests were on the tour, a scout Zodiac was sent out to look to see if polar bears were around in the area.
After a 30-minute ride in the Zodiac, we reached the glacier front. Sometimes you could hear a sound like the ice was “singing”. With the ice breaking and melting, air bubbles are set free and start producing this magnificent sound in the overwhelming silence of the Arctic. Small, big, blue and white icebergs were surrounding the Zodiac. It was wonderful scenery and a fantastic feeling being part of this unique nature. Somewhere at the glacier front, you could hear and sometimes see when the glacier was calving and tons of ice was crashing into the sea. On the way back to the ship, a short stop was made at the bird cliffs at Luciakammen where Kittiwakes had their nests high up on the ledges.
Unfortunately the scout boat couldn’t find any bear in the area and so the ship made only a short repositioning to our afternoon destination Gnalodden that is also situated in the Hornsund. Outside of Burgerbukta, conditions were worse as gusts of wind up to 30 knots were sweeping around the landing site. After a check with our scout boat, the landing site was proved to be ok and the afternoon activities started on time.
A short hike in the area of Gnalodden was offered to our guests. Nice Tundra vegetation paired with trapper history and a bird cliff in the back made a good combination for the first landing up here in Svalbard.
Wonderful Purple Saxifrage combined with cushions of Tufted Saxifrage in between and bright green moss vegetation makes Gnalodden a small little botanical paradise in this harsh environment. But also interesting is the history of this place as it was home for several years to the first female polar bear hunter up here in Svalbard. From 1932 to 1937, Wanny Woldstadt spent 5 years of her life up here hunting bears and Arctic foxes.
Although the weather was not the best, our guests enjoyed the first day up in the high Arctic taking in a Zodiac tour, a short hike and receiving lots of information regarding nature, history and geography of this archipelago. Soon after, guests enjoyed the delicious and well-deserved dinner in The Restaurant.
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