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Day 8 (
Friday, 17 August 2012)

 

View

River

The overnight sailing led us to the calmer waters in a large straight between the two large islands of Barentsøya and Edgeøya, and the plan was to walk on the arctic tundra. This was usually a little too far South for Polar Bears, but the scouting crew were again out as we gorged on breakfast looking for any potential danger. We opted of the “slow exercise” walking group on shore, which wasn’t a bad call when we saw the “fast” group yomping up one of the nearby fell tops – not a bad thing to do at home, but not totally conducive to taking in the arctic tundra scenery. Our group set off along the shore (after spotting a pair of Long-tailed Ducks over the static ship), through a stream and then a wet bog, which was intent at pulling on wellies as we plodged through. The decision to opt for this group was underlined when we came across a Black Guillemot colony, where the birds on the cliff edges were very approachable. Then even better – an Arctic Fox sprung out from the cliff edge in front of us, and then lay down a little way on, still in full view.

Cliffs

Black Guillemot

Arctic Fox

Cliffs holding Black Guillemot colony

Black Guillemot

Arctic Fox

Reindeer had been spotted at the base of the slopes in the distance, so we made our way across the impressive open and sparse tundra towards them. A huge stag was being approached by another group in the open lower ground, so we continued on our way towards a loose group of 8 animals, 4 of which were lying down. The others were approached slowly, and rewarded with very close views, with a line of tourists snapping away as they fed on the ground vegetation. As we watched, the same or a second Arctic Fox appeared to our left, and again seemed pretty well unconcerned by our presence. It was seen again just above us as we made our way down back to the awaiting zodiacs. On our trudge across the open bogs, a pair of Arctic Skuas made themselves obvious above us, and one even seemed to be doing a distraction display on the ground. As we traversed the stream for the return, a couple of Purple Sandpipers fed unconcernedly at the water’s edge.

Tundra

Reindeer

Slopes above the tundra

Reindeer

 

The midday sailing of three hours took us further South still, to the Western shores of the next large island of Edgeøya. The drill was very similar to the morning, with zodiac landings on a beach with a medium paced walk across the Arctic tundra for 2-3 hours. This was slightly flatter than the morning one, and this time backed by bare slopes encrusted by rough glaciers. This walk met up with more lakes than we had on any other trip out, and the reward was small groups of Long-tailed Ducks, and the odd lagoon holding Red-throated Diver. The terrain underfoot was very wet and boggy, which was probably a reflection of the higher precipitation here as compared with the arctic desert conditions we had been in further North. As we headed further towards the slopes, two small groups of Reindeer were seen, and a single Pink-footed Goose was some distance away in another direction. There was plenty of faecal evidence of large numbers of geese to be seen, but that was to be only one here.

Beach

Tundra

Beach

Boggy tundra

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