Unlike yesterday, this morning, we did not wake up to the loud sounds of crushing ice, even though we did pass some sea ice during morning hours in Freemanssundet.
We started off our day with a lovely lecture on glaciers from Ezra, one of our naturalists. Suddenly, we received an announcement from the expedition leader, Stefano, that a haul-out of almost 200 walruses had been spotted. Swiftly, all of the Zodiacs were lowered, and we enjoyed a delightful short Zodiac exploration around Kapp Lee. Opposed to yesterday’s exploration between ice floes, where we, with one exception, only saw females, we were only able to spot male walruses on land and in the surrounding water. Some of them were quite curious, and we were able to admire their large size and spectacular tusks. It is incredible that animals of that size sustain themselves by only eating small mussels and remain so incredibly elegant while swimming!
After eating wonderful Swedish meatballs and taking an afternoon nap, we headed back out. It was time for our first longer hike in the Arctic wilderness! And what an afternoon it was! We landed on a beach that was pink with flowering purple saxifrages. Yet, howling wind reminded us that we are indeed still in the harsh Arctic. But the wind accompanied by occasional snow and rainfall did not disturb our exploration. Looking at the remains of old fox traps, one can’t help but wonder how people that landed here centuries ago must have felt when facing this barren landscape when they first arrived. In the surrounding ponds we saw lots of birds - red phalaropes, whose females are the showy and colourful ones, majestic-looking king eiders, and long-tailed ducks. In the distance, we spotted cute and curious Svalbard reindeers. They seemed to have decided to lie down to avoid this windy weather to the best of their abilities, and curling up on the ground made them look like fluffy piles of snow. During the rest of our hike, we enjoyed the vast openness of the Arctic tundra and the feeling of being just a small human amongst this majestic landscape. After a slightly bumpy Zodiac ride, we were back in the warmth and comfort of the ship. The evening ended with an interesting recap, a delicious dinner, and a well-deserved break, after which the waves rocked us to sleep.