Posted by: tim ellis | July 26, 2016

Svalbard – Tuesday 26th July 2016 – Nordaustland

Brünnich's Guillemot, Alkefjellet
We have entered the Hinlopen channel between Spitsbergen and Nordaustland in the early hours of the morning, and are in the zodiacs at 8:00 for a cruise along some impressive bird cliffs – the skies are black with Guillemots, who are the main inhabitants, although there are a few Kittiwakes and the occasional Glaucous Gull amongst them. (A lone Great Skua also flies past us at one stage). We also see an Arctic Fox quite close to the shore. He appears to have an injured hind leg, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down significantly as he climbs amongst the rocks in search of food.
Arctic Fox at Alkefjellet

There are a number of waterfalls created by the melting snow, but at the end of the cliff there is a river flowing over the glacier and forming a major torrent, discolouring the sea as the sediment is deposited at the base of the cliff.

Polar Bear at Torellneset

Back on board the ship we make good time towards our afternoon location, even allowing for a stop to view a sleeping polar bear – he awakes briefly and looks up at us before settling down again.

 

After lunch we are supposed to be landing for walks and Walrus viewing.  All the “Long Walk” people disembark first, and the “Medium Walk” are just starting to get ito the zodiacs when then advance party spot a bear – it seems to be asleep, and a long way back, but the safety rules say “No Landing if there is a Bear”.  The Governor of Svalbard’s boat is in the bay, so even if we wanted to break the rules (which we don’t!)  now would not be the time to do it!

Who's Watching Who?

There are plenty of Walrus on the beach and in the water however, so we cruise along the shore taking photos.

 

We sail past the Brasvelbreen glacier just before dinner, and while out on deck we are treated to the sight of a Humpback Whale feeding, aqccompanied by a flock of Kittiwakes taking advantage of the fish he was driving to the surface.

Humpback Whale
At about 12:30 AM  as the boat enters the Freemansundet the tannoy goes off to announce several Polar Bears on the shore.  They are on the side of a mountain, which, annoyingly, has the sub behind it, making viewing difficult in the glare, but becoming easier as we move along the cliff.  There are at least seven bears, possibly more, spread along the mountain, either walking or resting.  As we get to the end of the cliff , the captain circles the boat back around to give people a second chance to spot them all.

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