Bellsund: Forsbladodden

Jun 30, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


Fulmars glided low over our wake, cocking their heads at us then speeding on to fall in line with the stern, as we made our way into Bellsund. They were out constant allies during our expedition in Svalbard, their silent dark eyes observed us, as if they knew the storm to come. Bellsund was the only fjord around Svalbard currently devoid of thick fog, which was why we were steaming steadily on to seek refuge behind the mountain of Klokkefjellet.

The wind lapped at our tail but luckily, we were able to find a calm bay inside the fjord system, which seemed perfect for an exciting morning of kayaking. As breakfast ended, we headed out onto the kayak platform and then we were off, into the deep turquoise fjord. Steep cliffs of scree encircled us as we kayaked in the wind and chop. The air was filled with darting birds—brunnichs guillemots, little auks, and kittiwakes—all buzzing back and forth from nest to sea. On shore, a group of us headed off to explore Forsbladodden, an exciting landing that yielded close views of reindeer and a surprise arctic fox, running back and forth across the moraine in search of food.

After a wonderful morning, we headed further into Bellsund. After lunch, to our great surprise, we had an incredible close encounter with a polar bear. The bear was wandering across a small island in the middle of the fjord. The excitement on the bridge was palpable. We hadn’t expected this encounter here. The large, healthy looking male hung around for a while, idling his way across land as we watched. The reindeer close by him seemed completely unphased by his presence. By far, this was the closest view of a bear that we’d had thus far. Gasps and woots filled the air and elation rang through the ship.

By the time we had begun to approach our planned landing site, Camp Millar, the wind had picked up significantly. Gusts of 40-knot winds were whistling over the water and whipping up the sea into a frenzy. The fulmars soared by, at times almost vertical from wingtip to wingtip, hanging in the air.

We managed to land and get everyone ashore for a wander around one of the most intriguing landing sites so far. The beach was littered with whale bones, driftwood, and artifacts from trapping days. Farther up the hill, we saw fox dens and fox cubs playing on the tundra, reindeer, and nesting guillemots and little auks in the scree slopes. An arid yet beautiful tundra landscape.

We came back aboard, cold but energized. After dinner, we watched the voyage film preview and finally, guest and standup comedian Alex Moult entertained us with a special routine.

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About the Author

Ella Potts

Naturalist

Growing up, Ella spent much of her time swimming and kayaking in the cold waters off the rugged coast of West Wales. It was there that she first found her love of the ocean. From those early beginnings she went on to study Biology at undergraduate degree and Environmental Biology, Conservation and Resource Management to Masters degree level, at Swansea University. During her studies, Ella took an ecosystem approach towards assessing the health of our marine systems, with her specialism being in our oceans apex predators, the cetaceans. Following her studies, Ella decided to put her scientific background to good use and move into marine conservation.

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