Russebukta & Boltodden, Svalbard

Jun 15, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

Guests aboard National Geographic Explorer visited the remote shores of Russebukta, Svalbard. Our guests departed the ship via Zodiac and were greeted with warm and sunny weather. Once ashore, expedition guides provided a variety of hikes—an Arctic bird walk, nature photography class, and longer hikes. We spotted numerous species of migrant birds returning from warmer winter regions to the south. Our bird expert, Jamie, was the first to identify red phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius), which are an interesting species for several reasons. Unlike many species of birds, the female red phalaropes exhibit a flamboyant red coloration during the breeding season. Females also compete for males, who end up caring for the eggs until they hatch.

The tundra ecosystem is dominated by grass and moss that provide food for an endemic subspecies of reindeer or caribou. The Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) is the smallest form of reindeer, and our guests watched as they fed on the tundra vegetation. As they feed, they provide an ecosystem service by opening up room for new growth of plants and lichens. The highlight for many guests was a playful Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) that we spotted running, leaping, and hunting near a recently melted lake.

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About the Author

Josh McInnes


Josh is a Canadian ecologist who grew up on Vancouver Island British Columbia, Canada. He studied marine biology and ecology with a focus in marine mammals, food web, and community dynamics at the University of Victoria.

About the Photographer

Carl Erik Kilander


Carl was born in Norway and received a master’s degree in forestry and nature conservation from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in 1973. His professional experience is mainly connected to environmental issues and natural resource management on the Norway mainland and in Svalbard. A major part of his professional experience comprises planning and management of protected areas, particularly in the southern parts of Norway and Svalbard. During the period 1999-2001 Carl was Head of the Environmental Department at the Governor of Svalbard´s office. He has also been District Manager (southwestern Norway) followed by the position of Senior Environmental Adviser at the Norwegian State Forest Service.

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