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July 29th 2018
Published: August 8th 2018
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Happy birthday Anne!

Up at 6:30 this morning as breakfast was coming at 7am. Made a slight mistake when ordering my breakfast this morning - I ticked the buckwheat pancakes and then I ticket banana, as I thought it would be a healthy option. When my breakfast arrived I had two buckwheat pancakes - and two banana pancakes! Doh. Sonal suggested I just have one of each as she could see by the look on my face that I didn't intend to order four pancakes! So, that's what I did. Lesson learnt though.

We arrived at Gåshamna in Svalbard around 7:30am. Gåshamna is a relatively large and open bay on the southern slopes of the Hornsund fjord. The bay has a width of about 2km and is included in the Sør-Spitsbergen National Park. There remains two large whaling stations in Gåshamna including blubber ovens, house sites and graves which are the most important remains from the early European whaling.

At 7:45 we met up with our kayak instructor, Calle (from Sweden who lives in Svalbard) and the rest of our kayaking group. There are 10 of us kayaking so it was good to meet everyone. This morning it was very foggy and one man said that if this was what the weather was going to be like, then he didn't want to do the kayaking. I think he was nervous about doing it and he saw this as an excuse to pull out. Such a shame though as now someone else on the waiting list missed out.

Calle took us down to the mud room and handed out all our gear. The dry suit if a challenge to get into, then you have to pull on booties and put on a special life jacket. We could take all the gear back to our suites to change, which made the struggle easier to do when all eyes aren't on you!

We met back downstairs, all suited up, at 9am. As I had done kayaking in Antarctica they considered me a more experienced kayaker (yikes!) so paired me up with Michael, a 85 year old gentleman from England. We all headed of in the zodiac so a nice little bay where our kayaks were waiting. One by one we got into our 2 man kayaks - I was at the back of ours which meant I was in charge of steering. Once Michael was in we just hovered nearby as everyone else loaded into their kayaks.

We were so lucky with the weather - there was hardly any wind and the fog cleared to show us some absolutely stunning views! We were surrounded by magnificent mountains of rocks and ice, which we had different glimpses of as the fog and cloud shifted. We then spent about two hours kayaking along the coast, enjoying every moment of the scenery which also included some beaches and waterfalls which seems to come out of nowhere. Absolute highlight of my trip (so far!)

Michael was fun to be with - there would be times he would just sing as we paddled along and then other times he would tell me a story but sometimes it was hard to understand as he had his back to me and wasn't talking very loudly.

Eventually it was time to go back to the ship - but first we had to get out of our kayaks and onto a zodiac. Bit of a physical challenge for some but everyone works as a team and helps each other out. Once back on board we all agreed that we had a wonderful time but that we would tell everyone else that it was terrible as we hoped some people would drop out so we might have a chance at a second turn!

By choosing the kayak option, I missed out on the first landing at Gåshamna, which I was fine with as I preferred to go kayaking!

This afternoon the ship sailed to Burgerbuhka in Svalbard for a ship's cruise of the area. Burgerbuhka is a specular area in the north area of central Hornsund and is considered to be somewhat like "Spitsbergen in a nutshell". There is wild scenary with impressive mountains and glaciers, bird cliff, lonely trappers hut in picturesque surroundings and a bay filled with icebergs and bergy bits. Lots of photo opportunities.

As I was doing laps around Deck 9, one of the other guys who was also walking the deck spotted a whale. We both started looking and I realised there was more than one whale, perhaps 3. Liz from the Expedition team was quick to respond and the next thing you know Skulk made an announcement and the deck started to fill up. One of the whales start to hit the water with his tail - over and over again! I have never seen anything like it. He would have done it at least 10 times in a row. What a sight! Liz believes there were 4 whales - a couple of humpbacks and a couple of blue whales, which are the biggest of all the whales.

Around 6pm we set sail for Lilliehöökbreen I'm Svalbard. At 6:30 we had our recap and briefing by the Expedition team.

Tonight I decided to have room service for dinner, which was quite the treat. Another big, exciting day.

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