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Published: September 23rd 2014
Dave’s Arctic Antics – North of 80.
“The beauty of this dreamlike architecture is enhanced by the sun, which floods its whiteness with dazzling rays, tints it with all the colours of the rainbow, lights the cavern of ice, dyes the broken edges of floes a deep blue or pale green, and makes hidden spurs shimmer in seagreen beneath the water.” André Migot
I am at sea again!
I’m onboard the Sea Spirit exploring some of the Polar regions.
I met up with the rest of the crew in Oslo and we all ate a meal together at the airport hotel. Buying a meal in Norway is not for the faint of heart as Norway is far from cheap! However, I wasn’t going to let the prices ruin my appetite so I ordered a cheese burger and fries for a mere 200 Kr (about $38 or £25). Needless to say, I licked the plate clean and then sucked up any crumbs that may have fallen on the table… Wow! I also had a pint of the local brew which cost a king’s ransom… How much!!!
Our expedition started the next
morning as we flew over the magnificent Norwegian coast to Tromsø, changed planes then headed to Europe’s most northern town on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago. The ship was not yet in the port so we had a full day to explore the Longyearbyen and the surrounding area. Food was on the agenda, a basic human need that cannot be ignored. I went to the grocery store and was astonished at how affordable the produce was – dairy in particular was very cheap. So I feasted on milk, cheese and yogurt.
We boarded the ship, met up with the guests then sailed through the night to the small outpost of Ny Ålesund (New Alesund) which claims to be the northernmost permanently inhabited settlement in the world and it has the most northerly post office, railway and hotel. It was the only community we visited on our Norwegian part of the expedition, all of the other sites we visited we wilderness areas - all of them spectacular. Landing at L
Purchasneset on Lågøya Island was a vast rocky plain with a backdrop of towering, glaciated mountains and a small walrus colony.
There are not a lot of walruses in Svalbard so it was an honour to spend time with these large mammals as they cautiously rested on a grounded chunk of sea-ice. It was a great area to explore too, as there were quite a few archaeological remains from earlier explorers/whalers who lived and worked on the islands several hundred years ago. Drama at Monacobreen.
We were out on the Zodiacs, cruising around icebergs and sea ice near Monacobreen Glacier. The mighty river of ice changed from white to beautiful greens and blues under a stormy sky. There was a moment’s silence then suddenly, crack! A huge chunk of ice, about the size of an apartment block, broke from the glacier and crashed into the deep water below. We watched the spectacle unfold, then we took off at top speed away from the glacier and away from the wall of water that came charging towards us.
It was quite the rush - and we all survived! The ice chunk that fell was easily several thousands of tons – that’s a lot of displaced water! At Sea.
We spent a lot of time
aboard the vessel patrolling the ice edge at latitude 81N for the Arctic’s iconic polar bear. We did not see the ice-bear but we did see several humpbacks, a Minke whale and a blue whale. The blue whale was fairly close by the ship and we got a very good look at it. At these latitudes in early September the sun shines strong until after 10pm and it remains twilight all night. We followed the ice until sundown then left the Svalbard Islands and headed out to sea. For two full days we were thrown around the ship as we bobbed up and down on bumpy water.
But the waters calmed when we entered a sheltered inlet…
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