June 19, 2016
Two days ago we tried to enter a passage that was blocked by ice. This morning, our expedition leader, hoping for better conditions, decided to try again. We were in luck. The winds and currents had broken the ice into large pieces. The captain of our ship carefully moved forward. We could hear the bow scrape the ice as we headed southwest. While we stood outside on the deck admiring the beauty, we scanned the ice floes for wildlife. We spotted a walrus and lots of dirty ice that looked like seals to our hopeful minds until we came close enough to see that was not so.
For our first outing today, we had an option to zodiac cruise or kayak. David caught a cold, so he decided to rest. The cruising area was enormous, so I decided to take the zodiac as it would cover more ground. It didn’t take long to find a walrus on an ice floe. Our zodiac was the first to find it. Other drivers radioed for coordinates, but the currents in the area were very strong, so the ice floe was moving. The description Woody could give was, “I just went straight out from the bow of the ship!” It was fun to photograph because the background kept changing! I liked it best with the iceberg behind it.
Speaking of icebergs, there were several in the area…lovely shapes and sizes glistening blue in the sunlight. One iceberg looked like the Sphinx. Our zodiac maneuvered through the ice field to the shoreline where we found some bear tracks. They didn’t look that fresh to me, but what do I know. We followed them around the point, but never spotted a bear. We did, however, see an Ivory Gull. One of the bird scientists involved in the Penguin Watch I mentioned a few days ago was on our zodiac. He was very excited to spot this bird, so I guess it was special! I’ll be the first to admit, I know nothing about birds.
The small gull looks like a pigeon. It is the only species in the genus Pagophila. It’s all white plumage did a nice job camouflaging it on the ice. The gull put on a show for us. It would fly up into the air and hover over us before it swoop down and land on the ice. It certainly didn’t like the kittiwake that try to land nearby. It squawked, flapped its wings, and charged them as it protected its territory.
We also enjoyed seeing the Arctic Tern. While we had spotted it previously on the trip, I was never in a good position to snap a decent photo. Today I felt like I captured this seabird’s beauty. The small, slender white bird is known for its long, yearly migration. It breeds in the Arctic, and flies all the way to Antarctica for the winter…some 25,000 miles round trip! It is the farthest yearly travel of any bird.
This bird watching was a change of pace from our previous stints of cruising the coastline. We just sat in one location with ice swirling around us. I really wish I took a video. I’ve never seen such noticeable currents in the ocean. The water swelled and circled at the same time, like two rivers meeting. It was really cool!
The afternoon afforded us a paddle along the shoreline and a landing. I can’t say either were terribly exciting. A few birds flew overhead as David and I kayaked in a double along the smooth waters. He is probably wishing he never offered this option. I loved having the chance to take good pictures in a kayak. Unfortunately for this outing there wasn’t much to see. I was grateful to make a landing. Much to my dismay, we had to trounce through bog, sometimes shin deep, just to see a few flowers and a reindeer that was far less cooperative than any of the others we had spotted. It kept walking off! Come to find out later, Woody had never before stopped here. I recommend not stopping here again! I don’t know…maybe the folks who hiked to the top of the ridge enjoyed it, though one person lost his boot in the muck! Anyway, a day in the Arctic is still a good day. ETB
To see where we were, click here: http://www.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/3249389?secretLinkKey=67461a15-2eca-49a6-97a4-de4b7c15a9c6