Our travel to the island, and ultimately the leaving port of Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, was by 3 flights from London (via Oslo and Tromso). Having left London at 10.20 am, and arrived at Longyearbyen at 12.30am the next morning, it was a little surreal to still be in the daylight (or is that nightlight?). We must have been staying ahead of the setting sun as we flew north from Tromso. The town of Longyearbyen certainly has a northern outpost type of a feel to it, with the wooden Nordic designed buildings being scattered rather than planned across the edge of the bay, and surrounded by the treeless fells on either side. There was also the welcoming site of the glacier at the head of the valley. We had prepared for very cold weather, but the 10oC that welcomed us was almost balmy. There would be plenty of time to utilise the cold weather gear as we headed further North.
The habitat in and around the town is fairly straight forward – open sea water of the inlet, rugged fells, shoreline, and bare open ground between the buildings. Most of the obvious birds were seabirds, mainly crossed when we had a walk around the town following breakfast and before embarkation at 4pm. Arctic Terns are easily the most obvious, not only by their numbers and presence, but even the polite signs posted asking people to respect their right to breed in peace. Small and scattered numbers of Black Guillemots were on the sea, which was endearingly calm and good for watching, are always a welcome sight. Looking up the bay towards the mudflats exposed by the receding tide, a decent sized group of Barnacle Geese were picked out in the distance. An Arctic Fox was hoped for, but the calm disposition of the geese pointed to no such small predator.
The boat finally left the dock at 6pm, and made our way in peaceful waters, passing many Black Guillemots and single Puffin on the way. After the evening meal, and before bed, the rear of the boat was blessed with the sight of a plethora of Fulmars, which seemed to be homing in on the calm air behind the vessel, and then veering up and round one side. Many of the birds passed within inches of where I was stood. An impressive sight despite the increasing heavy drizzle in the light of the late hours.