Storfjorden, West Spitsbergen

Jun 20, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

Today had a general plan to find wildlife and get ashore—and it worked out spectacularly! We had beautiful, clear blue skies and very little wind that, although perhaps not the wintery, atmospheric weather expected of Svalbard, made for a pleasant day to explore the area.

We started in Russebukta, or Russian Bay, named for the Russian trappers called Pomors who lived in small huts in the area. Most of us went for a good walk up into the tundra to see the wildlife and scenery up close. There were a lot of reindeer there and they were very relaxed around us, even approaching for a closer look at us.

The real highlight was the bird life, particularly the striking red phalaropes dabbling and feeding in the lakes. In the early afternoon, we headed back to the ship to have lunch while the ship repositioned near a spot on the island of Edgeoya called Kapp Lee. This was another Russian trapping site where the Pomors would hunt walrus that came ashore here several hundred years ago. The Russians slaughtered them for their skins, fat, and tusks, and many bones still litter the beach today. We visited, hoping to see live walrus, and it was great to see them returning to their old sites.

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About the Author

Peter Webster

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Born in Scotland, Peter became fascinated with nature and wildlife from a very young age. This early interest led to him earning a degree in conservation biology followed shortly after by an M.Sc in marine and fisheries ecology. He is currently studying for another M.Sc in digital mapping. After working as a commercial diver for several years Peter was offered the position of Field Diving Officer with the British Antarctic Survey in 2012. He then spent the next 16 months in the Antarctic, stationed at Rothera Research Station, on the peninsula where he managed the dive operations and a team of scientific divers working on a wide range of research on climate change, ocean acidification, and increased seabed disturbance by icebergs. As well as diving Peter also spent several months in the Antarctic deep field working in aircraft operations, depot laying, and meteorological work whilst living in tents in conditions below -30oC. 

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