Day 8 - July 12, 2013 - Burgerbukta, Gnalodden, Hornsund, Svalbard
By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist
Co-ordinates: 77°02´N, 15°59´E
Air Temperature: 6° C
The Silver Explorer reached her anchorage position in Hornsund at 8.00 am. Sea conditions were good for a nice Zodiac tour in between the icebergs, of which the Burgerbukta was partially filled, towards the glacier front of Mühlbacherbreen. The weather conditions were the best since the Silver Explorer started the Arctic Season: sunny blue skies were stretching over the southernmost fjord of Spitzbergen. Even the highest mountain in the surroundings, the Hornsundtind, with its 1431m peak was without any cloud cover towering over the Sund.
At 8.30 am the guests started to disembark for a one and a half hour journey 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. While guests were on the tour, a scout Zodiac was sent out to see if Polar Bears were around in the area.
After a 30-minute ride in the Zodiac, we reached the glacier front. A stop at the bird cliffs of the Luciakammen, with thousands of Kittiwakes nesting there, gave an impression where this Island got the name “Spitsbergen”. With jagged peaks the mountain chain dividing the Burgerbukta rose nearly vertical into the sky above the Zodiac.
On this hot summer day it sounded like the ice was “singing”. By breaking and melting, the air bubbles in the ice were set free to produce a magnificent sound in the overwhelming silence of the arctic. Small, big, blue and white icebergs were surrounding the Zodiac. It was a wonderful sight and a fantastic feeling to be a part of this unique nature. Somewhere at the glacier front you could here and sometimes see when the glacier was calving and tons of ice was crashing into the sea. Fortunately we found a Bearded Seal on an ice flow. Approaching it slowly with the Zodiac, guests were able to get some excellent photos from this interesting mammal.
Unfortunately the scout boat could not find any bears in the area, so the ship made only a short repositioning to our afternoon destination Gnalodden, also situated in the Hornsund. Today was a postcard day in the Hornsund. The Tundra vegetation beneath the bird cliffs of Gnalodden were bright green and the cliffs were reflected in the water of the lake. 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 the guests. Nice Tundra vegetation paired with trapper history, a bird cliff in the back, and some nesting Glaucous Gulls on the rocks of the beach made a magnificent combination for the last landing here in Svalbard. Gnalodden is a small little botanical paradise in this harsh environment with Purple Saxifrage and cushions of Tufted Saxifrage, Drooping Saxifrage, Scurvy Grass and Artic Mouse-ear in between bright green moss vegetation. Svalbard was also home to the first female Polar Bear hunter for many years. From 1932-1937, Wanny Woldstadt spent her life here hunting bears and Arctic Foxes.
It was a perfect day to say goodbye to the Arctic paradise with a Zodiac tour, a short hike and a wealth of information regarding nature, history and geography of this archipelago. Having experienced such a unique time up north, guests enjoyed a delicious and well deserved dinner in the Restaurant.
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