blue whale in the arctic

Blue Whales in the Arctic

We had one last night on the ship and were told we were in a good place for whale watching. A wake up call came over the loud speaker around 2 am; “I’m sorry to disturb, but there are three large whales on the starboard side of the ship.”

I thought to myself, I wish they announced what type of whale, as I didn’t want to get up for a humpback to view in the distance when I have snorkeled with them in the Silver Banks.

A little while later, we heard over the loud speaker, “We believe these are blue whales.”


Harbor Seal Circled Our Kayaks

What a great final paddle for our trip! After having the kayaks shuttled to the coastline, we loaded up and headed into the fjord. David and I took singles for the last outing. After being in a double, I found the single to be a little less stable and more rocky.

The landscape around the area was absolutely spectacular. To our left, an old fishing cabin was perched on the point while kittiwakes dotted the pebble beach until we neared. The sea was still until we reached a receding glacier. The wind coming off the icy slope blew us toward the middle of the rippling bay. I found myself snapping a photo and then paddling on the right side to bring myself closer to shore.


Little Auks and Incredible Iceberg Activity

Today was the summer solstice. Due to leap year, the summer solstice actually falls a day earlier. This morning we signed up for the hike in Isbjørnhamna as it was the only chance we would have to see nesting little auks. We chose to be in the group of “fast” walkers along with at least 20 other people. It would be our first chance to cover some ground while we were in the Arctic.


We started along the beach and soon followed a single track trail. I think this was the first time we even walked on a trail. There are two points of view about trails in the Arctic. One is to mess up one small portion of the land by creating a trail and a trace. As such the rest of the terrain is protected. The other is to spread out and walk so that a trail is never created and no trace is left, but a larger area of tundra is trampled. I don’t really know what is best, but I preferred the trail.


Beautiful Birds and Interesting Icebergs!

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.


Great Day of Kayaking!

The weather has finally improved. It was good enough for kayaking. We enjoyed a lovely outing in Faksevagen this morning as we paddled against a light headwind as we followed the coast out of the fiord. Sea birds and reindeer peppered the rocky coastline until we turned past the point.

glacial face on Kvitøya

Kvitøya…An Island Rarely Visited

Today we traveled to Andreenesset, Kvitøya or White Island. 99% of the island is covered by an icecap. The island is usually inaccessible due to dense drift ice which remains most of the summer months, but today, in rocky seas we were able to visit, the bay anyway. The fog kept us from landing as polar bears are hard to spot in such conditions. The large swells made for a bouncy zodiac tour. Regardless, between the waves we were able to spot swimming walruses. There were at least eight in the bunch. The curious fellows popped their heads up above the water’s surface as we neared.


Another Polar Bear Day!

Ok…the fog, rough seas and changing ice conditions has again changed our itinerary, so I am going to say we spent the morning motoring in the Hinlopen Straight and eventually disembarked on the zodiacs near Von Otteroya but I’m not 100% positive. This was our first time off the ship in nearly two days!

Of course we enjoyed seeing all the polar bears from the bow, but at the same time we were happy to have an opportunity to cruise the bay…or at least I think. After about an hour of cruising around in miserable conditions, a deep fog and mist in the air, my hands and feet were frozen and I was less than enamored with the kittiwakes, guillemots, and icy coastline. I don’t think I was the only one silently wishing we could go back to the ship.

polar bear mama and cub checking out its reflection

Polar Bear Mama with a Cub Visited Our Ship!

Our day started early…just after midnight. The message in Australian accent sounded over the PA system, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but a polar bear is visible to the naked eye around 11 o’clock to the ship.” I don’t think either of us had really gone to sleep. We had only returned to the room in the last hour after watching the bears in the distance. After the announcement, David, told me he wasn’t getting up, however, I got dressed in lightning speed. I was going to see that polar bear!

cliffs and birds at Allkefjellet

First Walrus Sighting in the Arctic!

Today on our Arctic Expedition with Quark, we started slightly earlier. Breakfast call was 7:30am. The 23 knot wind precluded us from kayaking, so we joined the zodiacs as we toured the shore of towering dolomite and limestone spires with ledges cut out for countless bird colonies at Allkefjellet.

The contrast of the white and black rock, along with the green tundra, dirty snow, and low clouds added to the dramatic setting where over 60,000 pairs of Brunnich’s guillemot breed. It’s amazing to know in September no birds will be present. It’s also amazing to think that of 10,000 species of birds around the world, only 30 species of birds breed in the Arctic and only about 100 species have been recorded.

kayaker group at Monacobreen

Reflections in the Arctic at Bockfjorden and Monacobreen

This morning on our Quark Arctic Expedition, we were called to breakfast at 8am. Along with the regular options, we could also order French toast. The weather was absolutely magnificent. The breezeless morning let us stand outside on the deck comfortably and snap photos of the surrounding peaks reflecting in the placid bay at Bockfjorden, a portion of Woodfjord, which is part of the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. The area is home to an old, snow covered volcano and at least today, fantastic kayaking conditions!