After our departure from a sunny and summery Longyearbyen, the sun continued to shine through the night, and our fantastic weather window continued this morning as we entered Bellsund, Svalbard’s second largest fjord system.
There is still some fast ice in the back parts of Van Mijenfjorden and Van Keulenfjorden, so this morning’s mission was to scout these areas and look for polar bears in their prime habitat while going through the briefings required at the beginning of every Arctic voyage. However, the briefings were soon delayed as it didn’t take long for naturalist Jamie Coleman to spot the first bear of our voyage in Van Mijenfjorden. It was a young male in good condition that was wandering along the beach before coming onto the edge of the pack ice. It approached the ship, which was expertly positioned at the edge of the ice by Captain Martin and his team, at a leisurely pace and investigated its surroundings carefully, stopping by a bird carcass but not eating it.
After this lovely sighting, the briefings continued as we headed back out into the main part of Bellsund to our intended landing site of Recherchefjorden. This area features a fantastic walrus haul-out site, which we visited on a quick Zodiac cruise before lunch.
The action kept on coming – hotel manager Laura and her team served up an excellent lunch, which was followed by a biosecurity session to make sure that we don’t import any non-native seeds or plant material to the fragile high Arctic environment. That done, we could head out onto the narrow moraine of Recherchebreen, which is separated from the glacier itself by a lagoon that is still partly filled with fast ice at this time of year. A seal was spotted relaxing on the fast ice, while the soft till of the moraine itself was littered with reindeer and fox prints. A great place to get a feel for how alive the Arctic is despite looking somewhat desolate at a distance.
What a fantastic start to our cruise around Svalbard and northern Norway! After all these adventures, we retired to the ship, where Captain Martin formally welcomed us onboard and took the opportunity to host a cocktail party to introduce the ship’s officers. In the meantime, we sailed north through the evening on our way to an adventure in the pack ice tomorrow.