Realm of the Polar Bear - A Travel Journal by Maggie Olson

Maggie is a Polar Cruises Client Services and Documents Specialist and traveled to Spitsbergen in August 2017 aboard the Expedition. Here is a log of her travels.

Aug 11 - Embarkation Day – Longyearbyen
Transferred to the Expedition by Zodiac (my home for the next 10 nights)


Aug 12 – Hansbreen Glacier
We headed south and landed at Hornsund.

Experienced the Hansbreen glacier calving.

Aug 13 - Storfjorden
Zodiac cruise in front of Negribreen. Lots of birds: Northern fulmar, ivory gull, black guillimot, glaucous gull & kittywakes. 2 ring seals.  Waterfalls, icebergs and glacier calving.


A walk at Kapp Lee with sightings of Reindeer, foxes, Arctic Skua and purple sand piper as well as walrus bones and flowers.


Aug 14 - Sea Ice & Bråsvellbreen
Due to conditions no excursions today.

Aug 15 - Ardneset & Alkefjellet
We were lucky to see a walrus haul out with lots of males. They were as curious about us as we were about them. About 6 whiskered fellas swam down to us and played in the water just offshore of us. They clacked their tusks with each other and stared at us with their red eyes. I was just so impressed with these guys! They followed us back to our ship and we sadly said goodbye.



In the Hinlopenstretet, we sailed the length of the cliffs and got to see the first waves of thick billed murre chicks leaping down from the cliffs into the water. There were thousands of birds all in this one place, all on top of each other. There was not one square inch left to spare on those cliffs they were so crowded together!

Aug 16 - Lågøya & Phippsøya
We had a very special polar bear encounter that everyone always hopes for but very rarely gets to witness. We came upon a mother bear with her 2 cubs. They were sleeping together on a rocky island as we slowly approached in our Zodiacs and for the next 1½ hours watched & took photos.


At Phippsøya we did beach clean-up and it started to snow. We collected so much fishing debris that the crane had to pull up our bags of nets, weights and shards of plastic. What an honor it was to give back and help out to keep the Arctic as pristine as possible. For those not wanting to participate in the cleanup both a long & short walk were offered.



Aug 17 - Ice Edge & Sorgfjorden
No outings today. We made it to 80 degrees north but no further due to rough weather and 50 knot winds.

Aug 18 – Bockfjorden & Monacobreen
The long walk today was up the old volcano to some warm springs and views of fantastic geology.

Later we went to the Monacobreen glacier for a cruise in the very reflective waters. We had so much fun among all the icebergs and their reflections we didn’t want to go back to the ship.

Aug 19 - Blomstrondhamna & Kongsbreen
I opted for the short walk today since I planned to do the Polar plunge…which I did do! It was 4 degrees C in the water! Very cold! We got to see some polar bear tracks in the mud which were so clear!

Back to the ship and off to Kongsbreen. We witnessed the glacier calving in a big way. When you’re sitting in a Zodiac in front of a 40 meter tall glacier and you see and hear it calve, that is shocking in a surprising way. The initial shot of the ice breaking away sounds like a gun going off, followed quickly by a roll of thunder. We sat in awe as we watched the resulting surge of water come upon us and rocked the Zodiacs. We also found a bearded seal hauled out on an iceberg.




Aug 20 - Alkhornet & Skansbukt
So many reindeer! And Arctic Foxes! We did a long walk in the tundra. The kittywake cliff was so loud with many nesting birds. The sea was calm and the day was clear with blue skies.


Next we headed to Skansbukta. We took turns on the island viewing the old gypsum mine. Interesting fact: they never mined any gypsum from that mine, just some worthless anhydrite. A ship wreck and hut also graced this small barren island. Nearby cliffs with Puffins nesting on the edges. We got to see them feeding and flying around. What a treat!

Aug 21 – Longyearbyen, Disembarkation
We disembarked the Expedition on a beautiful sunny day right after breakfast. We were bussed to the Radisson Blu Hotel and left our bags in the room that was allocated to us until we would be picked up in the early afternoon and transferred to the airport.

The Arctic is such a special and unexpected place and I can’t wait for my next trip. I wasn’t expecting the wealth of history, or the abundance of wildlife that we witnessed.