Day 7 - July 2, 2013 - Faksevågen & Palanderbukta, Svalbard
By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist
Co-ordinates: N 79º36.6', E 018º01.8'
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 8ºC
Pressure: 1011 hPa
Wind: 5 knots
Almost balmy. That is what the day felt like this morning when I first went outside. A nice and warm arctic summer day, with few clouds and the sun shining bright along its low trajectory in the polar sky.
Full of joy and anticipation we started disembarkation, happy to stretch our legs as we set off on a hike at Faksevågen. This beautiful fjord branches off Lomfjorden and its name means Fakse Bay, after a horse in Norse mythology.
We offered an energetic hike to the top of the plateau, which sits at 350 metres above sea level. The tundra vegetation in this protected fjord is quite rich, as well as abundant in different species of Saxifrage. There is also lots of Mountain avens, Svalbard poppy and Arctic bell-heather. Given the abundance of flora, it is no surprise that this place hosts a healthy population of Svalbard reindeer, which most of our guests had a chance to see. From the top of the mountain the clear views of Lomfjorden and even the Hinlopenstretet, everything was simply stunning.
During lunch, the Silver Explorer sailed out of Lomfjorden and across the Hinlopenstretet over to Nordaustlandet. More specifically, we sailed to a place called Zeipelodden, in Palanderbukta, which is a bay inside Wahlenbergfjorden in the Nordaust Svalbard Nature Reserve. That’s a mouthful!
Anyway, the purpose of our visit to Zeipelodden was to offer a guided walk into a true polar desert.
This barren land looks quite sterile and empty at first, but once you start walking around, you realise that you could actually spend more than a couple hours exploring it and not get bored. Not only does it has a long and beautiful beach, but it is just full of surprises. This place is testimony to the resilience of life in the Polar Regions. The wildflowers grow in the most inhospitable conditions you could ever imagine. All they need to flourish is shelter provided by a whale bone, or a rock, a tiny bit of water and perhaps some nutrients leached by water off an old bone and there you go … a small botanical polar garden.
But it isn’t only the landscape that’s compelling. The geology, grand open views and the botany makes Palanderbukta so special. Zeipelodden has some of the best stone rings I have seen, together with other forms of patterned ground such as ice wedges and polygons, plus frost heaving and troll bread.
We then came back onboard after todays great outings and got ready for a Recap & Briefing session before coming down to The Restaurant to enjoy a delicious dinner.
A great day today indeed. We’ll see what Svalbard has in store for us tomorrow.
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