Day 9 – Bear, Belugas & the Polar Plunge
The ELs were still determined to make a landing on Mabel Island but again the fog was just too impenetrable so the mission was abandoned and the ship sailed north towards George Land. We passed the morning attending lectures and rushing out on deck when any creatures were spotted. Three more bowhead whales revealed themselves to us but at a very far distance, so what we saw best were the spouts. Then a young female polar bear appeared very close to the ship in Smith Bay and made the day for many of us. About 50 belugas suddenly came into view, some swimming around the ship and others further away. For anyone tired of polar bear watching, the belugas made their afternoon. Can’t even imagine who among us was tired of polar bears though? At 4 o’clock, we were challenged to take the fabled “Polar Plunge” off a zodiac. some very intrepid (or perhaps crazy) folks picked up the gauntlet. Dr. Gloria stood by in another zodiac in case anything untoward occurred but all went well. Three Russian rangers, Jonathan, Dan, his wife and their 3 sons, Sue from England, Grace from Taiwan, Adrian, Bo, and Tall Tim accomplished the feat and were rewarded with Certificates of Accomplishment as well as bragging rights. The requirement to succeed is to jump into the water and be sure that your head goes under at least for a second. Kay took every divers’ pictures and made sure each got a video of his/her heroism (except for the 3 rangers who had no way of receiving the videos (no cellphones or other technology). Crazy stunt, but it is Arctic tradition after all even though the sea temperature stood at -1 degree Celsius. Kudos to all!
Day 10 – At Sea
Last day in Franz Josef Land and the Arctic again show us it was in control of our activities. We have learned that there are 4 reasons that activities are cancelled in the high arctic 1. Polar Bears 2. Fog 3. Swells and Otherwise Unruly Seas 4. Ice The zodiacs were in the water at Skvortskoya when the thick fog rolled in again covering us completely! After we waited around for about an hour, hoping that the fog curtain would lift, the ELs realized that that was just not going to happen. So then it was decided that we should proceed directly to Nagruskoya where we would be cleared out of Russian territory. The early checkout would allow more time for exploring Svalbard on our way home to Longyearbyen.
Sure enough, the check-out was not nearly as long as the entry process, so we left Franz Josef Land and the Arctic National Park filled with the beauty of the Arctic and all its creatures. The
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