Arctic Travel Adventure - Expedition part 2

Today the ship cruised north through the Svalbard Archipelago. The ship was our platform for bird watching and the search for whales as the glaciated scenery slip by - some passengers saw fin whale and walrus. Some fledgling birders added the ivory gull, shearwater, and puffins to their life lists.

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We enjoyed a series of lectures on the animals of Svalbard and geology. At the point we reached 80 degreed north, the ship turned south and we began our two day crossing to East Greenland.

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 Journal pages by Clara Fung

Sept 7 - 9

Our days at sea are filled with time on deck watching for wildlife and with lectures on various subjects including a presentation from Walt West who was stationed near Scoresbysund at a US weather station at the end of the Second World War.

My big excitement came in the middle of the night as things in the cabin began to bang and crash about. I thought I had done a pretty good job of securing my belongings after all my time spent in the Drake Passage however the almost 45 degree tilt made for some interesting challenges!

One challenge was staying in the confines of the bed itself. The ship has these foam wedges that you can tuck under the mattress. I surrounded myself with pillows as well, and watched from my nest as the world outside my window tilted in and out of sight. The upper sky's clouds were deep blue - almost purple-black, and the sea was dark purple with irregular lily pads of ice. Between the two blocks of color was a ribbon of orange with highlights of pinks and violets. As the ship rocked from side to side I watched the magnificent landscape appear and disappear from view. 

It turned out that the captain had aborted his attempt to enter the ice and sail toward the East Greenland coast as the ice was more than the ship could handle. At breakfast the next morning in full light he tried again. We were about 55 nautical miles away. Again we encountered 8/10 - 9/10 ice and were forced to turn back to open waters and run parallel to the coast line.

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We had now made 5 attempts this last one taking us within 23 nautical miles of East Greenland. At our current rate in the ice it would take 36 hours to reach our planned destination if at all! The captain had decided to sail on to Scoresbysund where ice charts show more favorable conditions.

Out on deck I spotted my first blow! Then two more, and finally we were close enough to catch a glimpse of the humpback's dorsel fin. There were a few more blows in the distance and then the whale was gone. You definately need patience when it comes to whale watching! As I made my way inside for quick warm up, I passed the Hong Kong students having a choir rehearsal in the Polar Bear lounge. Later on deck we watched as rafts of several hundred kittiwakes lifted off from the sea as though a white ribbon had suddenly been caught and carried away by the wind. Then the ribbon spread and changed shape like a flying carpet riding the wind.

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Tonight we were treated to the most amazing sunset. a world that was mostly shades of blue was transformed into ribbons of pink and orange. It seemed that the landscape had been dipped in honey, and the ice and clouds were like sweet layers of baklava.

To experience life at sea contact us for your own Arctic adventure and tune in for the next installment of my voyage aboard the Expedition tomorrow. If you have just started reading check out the earlier blog posts from this adventure.

Blog post by Sharon Keating

Sept 6, 11