Northeastern Spitsbergen, Fugelfjorden, Smeerenburgfjorden, Amsterdamøya
At 0630 hrs the National Geographic Explorer is sailing into Fugelfjorden, “Bird Fjord,” toward Svitjodbreen (breen means glacier), an exit glacier from Valsahvøya icecap to the south. Bold, dark mountains carved by ice into sharp peaks rise steeply on either side. Cirques, cut into those mountains by glaciers, brim with ice and snow within while heaps of glacial till spill out of their lower edges. Snow and ice come right down to the sea; this is fitting, for Spitsbergen means “sharp peaks” and Svalbard “cold shores.” Above this lead-gray arm of the sea, low clouds hide the highest mountains. Soon Svitjodbreen is obscured by fog and a keening wind whips around outside the bridge, carrying whirling snowflakes. There will be no Zodiac operations here in these conditions. We turn and sail for Bjornfjorden in the lower reaches of Smeerenburgfjorden. Here the broad calving face of Smeerenburgbreen rises 60 meters above the sea water in the fjord. Soon we hear a loud cracking sound and a giant chunk of ice falls with a roar off the face of the glacier, sending out a great wave and leaving a big blue patch on the freshly exposed ice of the calving face. While waiting in hopes of another calving event we are astonished to see a great skua, the fiercest predatory bird in Svalbard, drive an arctic tern right into the water in a vicious attack that kills the tern. The skua then tears into the tern, having breakfast right there on the water between the ship and the glacier.
We sail back to Fugelfjorden, now free of fog, and here 28 hardy (foolhardy?) souls take the polar plunge, leaping from a platform mounted on the side of the ship into the gelid waters in front of Svijodbreen. Read More>
Jun 28, 2015
National Geographic Explorer