Voyage Journal 7918 Day 6

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Day 6 - July 19, 2009 - Burgerbukta, Hornsundfjord, Svalbard

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 77° 02,46´N, 15° 52,9´E
Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: 9°C

At around 7.30 am, the Prince Albert II reached the entrance of Hornsundfjord. For this day cruising in the fjord in the morning and in the afternoon a Zodiac tour to the glaciers of Burgerbukta were planned. The Hornsundfjord presented itself in wonderful sunlight, clear blue sky and a panoramic scene, which is more than representative for Svalbard. Early in morning many guests were already out on the open decks watching this beautiful scenery passing by and taking pictures.  Members of the Expedition Team were also on the outer decks looking out for Polar bear, beluga whales and seals.

Despite the beautiful day outside, many guests joined the lecture of Juan Carlos Restrepo in The Theatre taking about the “The Earth and what lies below…”. Juan talked about topics like the origin of the earth, rock types, internal structure of our planet and plate tectonics, always trying to refer to examples that we found or will find in the Svalbard region.

Heading towards the Hornbreen we had the first sighting of a Beluga whale on our expedition. Chris Srigley, our general naturalist, spotted it first just in front of the glacier. It was only one individual, which is very rare for Beluga whales, as they tend to occur always in bigger groups. Unfortunately the whale only showed up at the surface twice and then disappeared and was not seen again. At the same time, our marine biologist, Robin Aiello, encountered a Polar Bear swimming in the water some distance away between the smaller icebergs. The Captain maneuvered the vessel closer to the bear, but still sufficiently away not to disturb him. Now nearly all guests were out on the deck and looking for the Polar bear. At the beginning it was very difficult to spot him, but as he got more into the open water he was easy to observe, raising his head, sniffing around and of course looking out for food. For nearly one and a half hours the bear was swimming more or less parallel to the shore line, intending also once to catch a Black Guillemot that was dumpling in the water next to him. Then finally the Polar bear went out of the water, and we were able to get nearer with our Zodiacs. They had been lowered down before waiting on standby for this moment. Unfortunately the bear seemed to have other interests than walking along the shore and after maybe 40 minutes, he disappeared behind a ridge on the mountain slope.

After a short lunch break, the Zodiacs where again lowered and our guests were taken on tour to the Paierlbreen and Mühlbacherbreen, two glaciers that terminate in the Burgerbukta. Spoken in simple terms, the scenery was fantastic. At the southern part of the fjord was the Hornsundtind mountain -- the third highest mountain at 1,431m/approx. 4700 feet -- towering above the completely calm sea. In front of us, the glaciers were surrounded by the steep peaks of the Svalbard mountains. The tour took guests for approximately one and a half hours to the glaciers, driving around blue icebergs and observing the bird fauna in this fjord. Little Auks, Black Guillemots, Common Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Eider Ducks, Barnacle Geese and Glaucus Gulls could be observed. After coming back to the ship our guests were really satisfied with such a day up here in the north.

In a short briefing, Expedition Leader Robin West informed the guests on the plan for tomorrow and then our photographer, Kristine Hannon, presented a video of our expedition so far, through yesterday, the 5th day.

At 7.15 pm, Venetian Society members were served cocktails and those who had been traveling several times with Silversea where honored.

Afterwards, Venetian Dinner was served in The Restaurant, an appropriate culinary highlight for a fabulous day in Svalbard.

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