A slight swell and rolling of the ship during the night wasn’t an indication of the almost glass like quality of the sea as we entered Hornshund fjord. We had rounded the southern tip of Spitsbergen, and entered the mouth of this wonderful fjord on the south-western tip of the island, with clear blue skies and almost no wind to compliment the 4oC temperatures. This was to feel much warmer as the morning, and the continuous sun, progressed. The views as we sailed along the length of the cutting were superb, with glaciers flowing from high peaks. The terminus of the fjord was even more spectacular, with large glaciers flowing down to the water’s edge as rugged ice cliffs. This was to be the zodiac destination of the morning, running the length of the ice at the North end. It was obvious that numerous calving events of the ice stacks from the main sheet occurred, shown by the multitudes of small icebergs in the bay. We did hear some cracking, and one or two small boulders of ice gave way, but no mass fall this time.
Even from the deck, one or two birds could be seen plying to and fro. The strangest was a Purple Sandpiper which circled the ship before making towards the shore. A lone Arctic Skua ignored the Arctic Terns which were in small numbers over the water. While one or two Black Guillemots had been seen from the ship, the closest encounters were from the zodiac. Some birds were highly inquisitive, and almost came within touching distance. One small group was the only one to contain 2 juveniles. After a Glaucous Gull flew over the ice edge, it was followed by two sightings of Ivory Gulls. The most frustrating was a group of 3 Ivory Gulls, which flew over our heads and landed on the iceberg we had just left behind!
For the afternoon, we headed back towards the head of the fjord, and then into an offshoot which again had a glacier at the end. On the way up here, there was plenty of ice floating by, and there were 2 Bearded Seals on a couple of these, more than content to lay and snooze as the ship parked itself close by. The zodiac cruise took us straight back to where one of the seals was still trying to rest, until it eventually tired of our presence and left. We then set off towards the glacier ridge, and drifted close to a group of Kittiwakes perched on some ice. There were also a few Black Guillemots near to the ice edge, and the driver of the zodiac coaxed a pair closer by wiggling his fingers – unbelievable but it worked! The sun on the valley was lower than earlier, but the fjord was stunning.