CRUISE & EXPLORE BEAR ISLAND (Svalbard)
Bear Island is considered Svalbard’s southernmost island, roughly half way between Spitsbergen and Norway’s North Cape. Although the last polar bears were seen in 2004, the name goes back to Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz and his visit in 1596. The island has been used to hunt walrus, for whaling, and even coal mining has taken place. The strategic location on the border of the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea has led to a meteorological station being set up by Norway near Gravodden on Bear Island’s north coast. Some two thirds of the island is a relatively flat plain with shallow freshwater lakes and Ramsar Wetland, while the entire island and the surrounding waters are a Nature Reserve. Bear Island has also been designated an Import Bird Area as it is a staging area for Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese and the steep cliffs south of Sørhamna are home to thousands of breeding seabirds. This is a specially protected area where Zodiacs are allowed to cruise along the cliffs around Kapp Kolthoff. In smaller amounts Atlantic Puffins, Northern Gannets, Glaucous Gulls and Great Skuas are found in between the large Black-legged Kittiwake, Little Auk, Common Guillemot and Brünnich’s Guillemot colonies. The constant battering of the sea has not only created impressive sea caves and tunnels, but unfortunately the Russian vessel Petrozavodsk shipwrecked near Revdalen at the base of the limestone cliffs and the waves are causing a continuous disintegration of the remains of the ship.