Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Return to the polar ice pack

Svalbard – second edition


Monday, August 8, 2022


After the late departure from Longyearbyen, we sailed for Gravnesodden, Svalbard near the northwestern tip of Spitzbergen Island.  The distance is not large, about 173 NM, but we have a partial day at sea before we arrive.  As we sailed north, the weather turned gray and rainy.  The morning was taken up with the mandatory AECO briefings and a bio-security inspection of all our outerwear going ashore.  There was also a repeat of the kayak operational and safety briefing.  There are a lot more people on this voyage, very noticeable in the Discovery Center and all the restaurants.

Internet service once again was non-existant deep in the fjords.


Gravnesodden is on Magdalenefjordet and was the site for whaling operations beginning in the 1600’s.  There are the remains of blubber furnaces and also 134 graves, hence the name Gravnes.  There is also a hunter’s hut we can visit.  Patrick will be kayaking once again, but the temperature is predicted to be only 35 degrees, so much colder than two days ago.


The kayaking turned out to be warmer than expected, with sightings of barnacle geese, arctic terns, fulmars, glaucous gulls, and guillamots, and even a pin tail duck.  Ashore we visited the remains of blubber ovens from the early whaling era and could view the cemetery where 134 men died during the early years.  Many of the remains are now gone due to the permafrost floating the remains to the surface where either weather or polar bears destroyed them.  The area where the graves were located is fenced off and protected from visitors, but photos can still be taken.


It was a busy evening, with the Captain’s welcome reception, the first formal night of this voyage, and then dinner.  We found out there are only 192 revenue passengers on board, compared to 148 on the first voyage.  The USA has the largest complement accounting for 134 guests.  The crew numbers 249, from 45 countries.  In addition, there are a number of contractors still on board to address technical issues should they arise.


Tuesday, August 9, 2022


Seabourn Venture cruised overnight in calm sea conditions to Texas Bar and Monocobreen.  The final approach was in dense fog.  We passed a Hurtigruten expedition ship anchored further out in the fjord, as well as a sailboat, which eventually anchored at Texas Bar in front of our ship.  Landings were delayed due to the dense fog.


After about one hour, the fog cleared enough to go ashore and do Kayaking.  Today Patrick kayaked with a crew member and departed from the beach for the first time.  Weather was calm, but still a little foggy, so the excursion to Monacobreen was cancelled and the ship headed for the far north.  We arrived at 81 degrees north about 2130 but did not immediately enter the pack ice.


At midnight we were at 81 degrees 45 minutes north and then headed back southwest looking for the edge of the pack ice.


Wednesday, August 10, 2022


Patrick was up at 0530 and in the bow lounge as Seabourn Venture entered the pack ice.  At 0600 we were out on the bow when a polar bear was spotted having just freshly killed a bearded seal.  The ship stopped and we were able to view the gory aftermath as the polar bear first stripped the blubber from the carcass and started to work on the flesh.


Proceeding further into the pack ice, we all searched for more polar bears, but none showed up.  At noon the ship stopped for the “polar plunge” where a number of brave souls jumped into the 29 degree water north of 81 degrees.  Patrick passed up the opportunity once again.


Continuing south, the ship stopped once again as another polar bear was on the ice and then, unbelievably, a third polar bear was on the ice with a fresh kill, so once again the ship stopped and we all got the opportunity to observe the rather bloody feeding scene.


The ship is now out of the pack ice and headed south for an encounter at Ny London in the morning and 14 July glacier in the afternoon. 



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