Voyage Journal 7809 Day 3

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Day 3 - July 14, 2008 - Hambergbreen, Svalbard

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Co-ordinates: N 77° 02.55; E 017° 05.05
Weather: Beautiful blue sky, no wind and calm seas

Yet another glorious morning was evident as we were called to the deck at 0700 as a humpback whale lazily fed alongside the ship. Oily seas with very little wave or swell allowed us to see this magnificent creature as it surfaced within 100 metres of the ship. Conducting shallow dives lasting 4-5 minutes, it was clearly feeding on something just below the surface, and as it blew at the surface its fishy breath hinted at what this might be. Showing its tail as it carried out these shallow dives, we were off to a good start to the day.

We continued on to our morning stop at Hambergbukta alongside the Hambergbreen glacier. Launching the Zodiacs into the cool waters, we were soon heading out for a Zodiac cruise amongst ice, exploring the extent of the glacier in order to see wildlife. Our lecture staff both drove and joined our Zodiacs, describing the birds and geology of the area, with kittiwakes feeding along the face of the glacier due to increased nutrients, and therefore increased food resources amongst the ice. We had been on the water for little more than a few minutes when suddenly the VHF radios crackled with reports of a Polar bear along the face of the glacier, apparently feeding on something on top of a piece of ice. The bear guides, Geir Berg and Jan Navjord, had managed to spot the bear amongst the brash ice in front of the glacier. At first they had thought the bear was a walrus, due to the fact the animal was stained a very dark brown, possibly as a consequence of overland travel through a dusty and dirty landscape. We slowly made our way towards the bear, and were able to view it from a distance, so as not to disturb it. Eventually it took to the water, and although we have all seen the documentaries where Polar bears live amongst the ice, seeing them actually swimming amongst it is truly a sight to behold.

We gradually moved away, skirting along the face of the extensive glacier. Black guillemots, kittiwakes, and Glaucous gulls were present in the area, and Northern fulmars skimmed low over the water, in a seemingly effortless flight pattern. Scanning the huge mountainous terrain that had been formed from glacial valleys carved through sedimentary rock, we marvelled at the stark contrast with what we had seen in Norway.

Back onboard, we enjoyed an excellent lunch, with many making the most of the beautiful weather and dining on the open deck. Blue cheese burgers all around! As we cruised on a north-easterly path towards our expected meeting with ice, we enjoyed amazingly calm seas and spectacular views. Brunnich’s guillemots flapped out of the way of the ship, and we encountered our first little auks.

At 1500, our Hotel Department served bouillon and drinks on deck. Then at 1530, Brent Stephenson, our resident Ornithologist, presented a talk about why on earth anyone would want to watch birds! As one of the fastest growing pastimes in the US, and set to be more popular than golf, birding is something that can be done in any corner of the world, by anyone. Brent then also showed pictures of many of the bird species we will encounter throughout this voyage.

A recap of the last two days’ events was then hosted by the Expedition Team, after which we all donned our best attire for the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party. Captain Uli Demel welcomed us onboard, entertained us, toasted to our voyage, and then introduced the senior officers of the ship. Of course, this was all followed by an excellent dinner!

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