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Day 3 - July 3, 2009 - Hornsund, Svalbard, Norway

By Christian Walter, Ethnohistorian

Co-ordinates: 76 degrees 56,42 N, 15 degrees 49,21 O
Weather: Blue sky
Air Temperature: 3,5 degrees Celsius
Pressure: 1020 hPa
Wind: 5,4 kmh

During yesterday's dinner, our Maitre d' Uta had promised great weather, as all of us at an American/British table had finished our dinner, not leaving anything on our plates. According to Uta, that is what you say to children when you want them to eat…. We had been doubting her prediction, as the sea had still been causing a bit of motion distress to some of our fellow travellers during the evening, but the morning could not have presented itself in a better way: calm waters, blue sky and excellent views of the Hornsund and its different bays and glaciers. The masses of ice to the east of Spitsbergen that are sometimes pushed into Hornsund by the ocean currents were not there, and we could enjoy beautiful views of the mountains and bays.

Expedition Leader Conrad's voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing a change of plans: we were going to go ashore at Goshamna ahead of the planned schedule. The scout-boats set off with the bear guides, and a landing was secured. Although this was our first landing, and visitors to Svalbard are normally kept in small groups, Conrad wanted us to be able to be more flexible. Apart from guided walks to the remains of a trapper hut, the leftovers of the "Konstantinovka"-base, and a loop towards our bear-guides/guards, we could see reindeer, arctic skuas, arctic terns and a number of saxifrage and other plants on our own. We just had to stay in the perimeter set up by our bear-guides.

Our Chinese guests seemed to enjoy the snow quite a bit and had a number of pictures taken with two different flags they had brought along.

While groups two and three were ashore, Hans Peter gave his talk "Nature of the Arctic" to groups four and one, and when groups two and three came back on board they had a chance to listen to his lecture.

Shortly after one o'clock, the last Zodiac left the shore, and we could see that the hotel department had taken the opportunity to prepare a light lunch on the sun deck! Hopefully this would not be the only time, but obviously this depended on the climate…

The anchor was raised and we shifted anchorage going east into Burgerbukta. A beautiful scenery opened up before/around us, and most everybody was anxious to go on a Zodiac-cruise, getting closer to the glacier.

This time Hans was given the chance to go on the cruise, while I stayed behind for the talk "Early European Exploration".

Shortly after the first Zodiacs had left the ship, Chris had scouted a swimming polar bear, and all guests had a good look at the bear. He was left swimming, the group then reached the glacier and on their way back he was again seen, this time ashore. Groups one and two were given the same chance, and everybody was happy to have been able to see a bear on the very first day on Spitsbergen.

The day was not over yet: once returned to the Prince Albert II, it was time to get ready for the Welcome Cocktail Party given by the captain. The Theatre filled, and while we were waiting for Captain Aleksander Golubev to introduce his senior officers, many talks centered on the interesting morning and the polar bear.

During the Captain's Welcome Dinner, the Prince Albert II moved out of Hornsund into the open sea and the fog seen from a distance soon embraced us. A tasty dinner was had in calm conditions, and after-dinner entertainment could be had in the Panorama Lounge.

As Conrad had announced an early landing during the cocktail, groups four and one had to consider that it would be their turn to get up early….

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