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Day 6 (
Wednesday, 15 August 2012)

 

The first planned destination today was the most Easterly point of the voyage – the iced island of Kvitøya. First views were impressive – a mostly ice covered island with a strip of exposed beach, and some impressive ice cliffs to the North. This was one of the first mornings at sea when we could see blue sky, and there was a deceptive swell. The message came over that there were bears near to the Walrus haul out on the beach, so a zodiac cruise was the best way forward. Unfortunately (it seemed) for us, the first group to wasn’t ours, which seemed frustrating at the time, because we could see 2 Polar Bears on the beach from the observation decks. Time seemed to stretch watching these from the distance of the ship, before we were called to the zodiacs. This is where the slight swell seemed even higher, and we had to almost jump on to the craft.

The journey to the beach passed one or two Pomarine Skuas, but the best was yet to come. Our timing had been perfect. The larger of the two bears had made its way along the small rocky peninsular to the lying Walrus during our approach, and gave prolonged views not only at its closest point, but even of an attempt at charging the Walrus from the rocky blind side. The bear sat forlornly looking at the baying Walrus in the water for some time, before finally admitting defeat and meandering back to the beach. During all this, we had small groups of inquisitive younger Walruses come near to the zodiacs for an inspection, with the odd Pomarine Skua and 4 Red-throated Divers over. The return to the ship was even more hairy than earlier, with a heightening swell making return on board more than a little tricky.

Polar Bear

Polar Bear & Walrus

Polar Bear

Polar Bear eyeing up Walrus

 

Guard

Walrus

Standing guard at Storoya

Walrus haul out

Three more hours following the morning landing, we were again moored off another barren shoreline backed by a landscape of ice, with two Walrus haul outs the target. All clear of bears and a perimeter set up – or so went the theory. The landings from the zodiacs were quite long and a little choppy, with a decent step off on to the shore. A Pomarine Skua flew over us on the journey there, and a couple of Arctic Skuas were intent on harassing the reasonably sized Arctic Tern colonies dotted around the shingle. A pair of Red-throated Divers flew over, and later a pair were seen on one of the shoreline lagoons. The third and least common of the local Geese, a trio of Brents, were found on the promontory of shingle which led to one of the Walrus haul outs. The whole scene was one of serenity – the perimeter was now the visual sign of the walking area for all, with plenty of shingle, and more shingle, to peruse and meander over. Another pair of Arctic Skuas were watched chasing more terns, and a pair of Sanderlings were found at the edge of the diver lagoon, when a calm command to return to the zodiac site was given. The as ever efficient bear detection system had found a sleeping bear just around the corner, and what’s more, the group of kayakers had stumbled across it on their own landing! A slight complicating factor was that all but one of the zodiacs had returned back to the ship, waiting for a leisurely return some time later. We were eventually returned in order to the ship, to be told the news that the last two zodiacs had actually watched the Polar Bear round the corner just beyond the Walruses! A close call, but an exciting tale to tell once back in one piece!

Arctic Terns

Arctic Skuas

Sanderling

Arctic Terns passing food

Arctic Skuas

Sanderlings

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