CRUISE & EXPLORE BEAR ISLAND (Svalbard)
Almost half way between Tromsø and Svalbard is isolated Bear Island – considered the southernmost island of the Svalbard Archipelago. The unglaciated island is an impressive Nature Reserve of steep, high cliffs that are frequented by seabirds, specifically at the southern tip. Brünnich’s Guillemots, Common Guillemots, Black Guillemots, Razorbills, Little Auks, Northern Fulmars, Glaucous Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and even Atlantic Puffins and Northern Gannets nest along the cliffs south of Sørhamna. Because of the large numbers of birds and the isolated location, Bear Island has been recognized as an Important Bird Area. It was once a hotspot for whaling and walrus hunting, and at one stage even mining. Bear Island received its name because of a polar bear encountered by early explorer Willem Barentsz. Today polar bears rarely visit the island and its only settlement is a meteorological station manned all-year round on the north side.