Norway's Svalbard - 2003

NORWAY’S SVALBARD 2003 Land of the Ice Bears

Author: Lois Gray Photos: Kay Gilmour

Arrangements: Lindblad Expeditions

Land of the Ice Bears

July 5 to July 15, 2003

Contents OSLO .................................................................................................................................. 3 Vigeland Sculpture Garden In The Frognerpark ............................................................. 4 Fram Museum ................................................................................................................. 8 SVALBARD ..................................................................................................................... 10 Getting There................................................................................................................. 10 Moose Red Lights And Moose Bridges (Overpasses) .................................................. 10 The Island of Spitsbergen...............................................................................................11 The City of Longyearbyen ............................................................................................ 12 OUR VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY................................................................................... 16 Hornsund Fjord--East Coast Of Spitsbergen................................................................. 20 Trapper Cabin ............................................................................................................ 24 Polar Bear Still-Hunting ............................................................................................ 27 We Go Sea Kayaking................................................................................................. 28 Zodiac Ride with Bar Service.................................................................................... 30 Hilarious Story of Man and Polar Bear Encounter.................................................... 32 HINLOPEN STRAIT.................................................................................................... 33 Stalking the Hauled-out Walrus................................................................................. 33 Lecture on Arctic Wildlife ......................................................................................... 37 Hike Cancelled by Bear ............................................................................................. 38 Walrus Facts............................................................................................................... 39 Land of the Midnight Sun.......................................................................................... 40 Thoughts on the Polar Bear ....................................................................................... 40 HELEYSUNDET – NARROW SOUND...................................................................... 41 Where do Polar Bears and Walrus get fresh water to drink? ..................................... 41 KAPP FREEDEN.......................................................................................................... 44 Hiking the Tundra with Reindeer .............................................................................. 45 Another Kayaking Outing ......................................................................................... 47 BJORNSUNDET .......................................................................................................... 48 Another Bear Sighting ............................................................................................... 50 Bear Hunt Successful – Seal not so Lucky................................................................ 51 HEADING BACK......................................................................................................... 53 Reference to Polar Bear Birthing Video .................................................................... 53 Sighting a pod of Fin Whales .................................................................................... 54 WALK ABOUT LONGYEARBYEN AND HOME..................................................... 55

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OSLO Flights from Jacksonville to Newark & from Newark to Oslo went as advertised. Jacksonville plane was small and not very comfortable for legs; SAS to Oslo was comfy physically but seemed long since neither of us could sleep on board very effectively. Therefore, after 6 hrs. and 20 minutes, when we arrived in Oslo to rain and overcast skies, we weren’t disappointed because that’s how we felt. Hotel Continental Got to the Hotel Continental by about 9:30 AM (3:30 EST July 6) and were very relieved to find that we could get into our wonderful room! The hotel is across the street from the National Theatre which is fronted by a statue of Norway’s most illustrious playwright, Henrik Ibsen. We fell into the beds and slept until 2 PM when we got up to join the group for the 3 PM city tour. The ride into Oslo from the airport was remarkable only for the greenness of the land and the excellence of the road (which the guide assured us was unique in Norway). We were really too gray ourselves to notice much more than the neat farms and the red barns along the way. However, our friendly guide did tell us that Norway is almost 60% mountainous and only 4% arable land. Forests cover significant portions of the land as well. Our guide to the city tour was Margareth and she spoke good English with a decidedly British accent. She was a small woman with gray hair who was very enthusiastic about Norway and its history. By now the sun had won the battle with the clouds and everything was bathed in glorious northern light. The city was vibrant in its glow and the so-pale Norwegians were everywhere enjoying their parks and pedestrian streets, many in quite abbreviated outfits. People watching in the parks was fascinating since there were so many types of dress to be seen as well as a surprising ethnic variety: the white breads, several black folks, and Pakistanis who have been here for several years after having immigrated to find jobs. Norway has welcomed them and their families so many have stayed and made their homes here. Don’t know yet why we saw so many black children in the parks. Oslo appears to be a quite livable city, with plenty of walking space, lots of trees and parks, many pedestrian streets and lanes. The architecture is different enough to merit its own Norwegian designation, since it seemed unlike Swedish or Danish or Icelandic, except in its multicolor houses and castles. Most of the housing is wooden, though the official and royal buildings are stone or brick. Flowers are obviously much loved here We learned a little Norwegian history from Margareth--chiefly that Oslo was founded in 1000 AD and burned 17 times before the core of the present city was built in the 16 th century. For three hundred years, Oslo was called Christiania in honor of the Danish King Christian IV who actually lived in the city and revitalized it during the 1600s. Until the 1500s, Norway was independent, then it was conquered by Denmark and ruled as part of the Danish realm. Later, Norway became part of a Swedish union and was governed and flourish everywhere. AWee Bit Of History

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through that country’s monarchs and parliament. Only in 1905 did Norway become an independent country. It is now governed by a constitutional and hereditary monarchy, descended from Jean-Marie Bernadotte and Desiree of Napoleonic fame. CITY TOUR Our city tour drove us by the Royal Palace , the Royal Gardens , even the royal barns and cows as well as the King’s Summer Residence . We also saw the Akershus Fortress dating from 1200s which was never conquered. Though started as a royal dwelling, it became strictly a fortress in 1582. It is now the scene of festivities, official rites and visits from other heads of state as well as a park which can be visited and enjoyed by the Norwegians and their many tourists from other countries. However, not by us, since there was not sufficient time. The Town Hall is the site for the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize , won by Jimmy Carter last year. It has an impressive entrance between two square towers, reminiscent of Viking days. Vigeland Sculpture Garden In The Frognerpark

We did emerge from the buses to see the Vigeland Sculpture Garden in the Frognerpark.

Gustav Vigeland was Norway’s most famous sculpture and did create a monumental legacy for the country, with the government’s economic support. It was finished in 1942,

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having been started 30 years previously. There are about 200 different statues and a magnificent monolith showing human beings striving for resurrection from death to life. The other important pieces decorate the bridge and are wonderful depictions of nude human beings in all age groups from infants to dead bodies, in all kinds of gatherings, whispering, giggling, wrestling, debating, courting, struggling, etc. Much emphasis placed on family life and the circular nature of life itself. The statues are life-size and larger and carved of granite. The stone has been polished so that it feels quite silky and it is amazing to feel ribs and spines when you touch the statues (which you are encouraged to do) because often those features are not obvious to the eyes. A theme of many of the statues is man in relationship to the tree(s) of life and often the figures are depicted within the “toils” of trees or climbing in them and out of them. Again, everybody from babies to old folks are found within the “cages” of these tree sculptures. Very impressive and quite a beautiful setting as well.

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FramMuseum Next we were taken to the Fram Museum which turned out to be the house of the good ship Fram of which we had read so often in all the adventure stories of Arctic and even Antarctic exploration.

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The ship was built at the direction of Fridjhof Nansen by a Norwegian of Scottish ancestry, named Caller. What a stout ship it was too. Its specially constructed hull of 18 inches of oak covered with greenheart wood withstood 3 expeditions to the Arctic and 1 to the Antarctic, often being caught in the ice for years and yet never breaking up. After Nansen had used it, others took it on various voyages of discovery as well & its mightiest adventure took it to the Antarctic with Roald Amundsen in his successful race for the South Pole. Our welcome dinner and get acquainted “mixer” took place in the Theatercafeen Restaurant in the hotel & was delicious to people who had not eaten in 12 hours. We had cream of asparagus soup and then roast beef with carrots and turnips (shades of Iceland). We avoided the potatoes and the bread and left well before dessert was served. Now we are back in the room getting showered and ready for what we hope will be a good night’s sleep before we get back on an airplane to fly to Longyearbyen & the M/S Endeavor.

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SVALBARD

Getting There The 6:00 AM wake-up call found us finally sleeping soundly after a very wakeful night with long stretches of sleeplessness, courtesy of jet lag. The breakfast buffet was plentiful and we were aboard the busses back to the airport by 7:45 AM We were just a little more alert on this return trip so we were able to see again, with more details noticed, the lovely farmlands and carefully mowed fields. All the fields look like lawns because they are so closely cut. Anneke, our guide for this portion of the trip, told us about the various ways that the Norwegians try to protect both their moose and their human populations from disastrous meetings on the roadways. Moose Red Lights And Moose Bridges (Overpasses) We were instantly charmed by this wonderful people who would go to such lengths to protect their wildlife and we were totally amazed to learn that the Norwegian moose is just like the North American creature except for being smaller. The first ploy Anneke reported to us concerned “moose red lights.” Sensors were actually placed in the woodland areas favored by the moose to cross the nearby roadways. The devices were supposed to sense the presence of the moose (and other creatures as well) and give the automobile traffic a red light to alert the drivers to stop while the moose crossed safely in front of them. Well, this delightful device failed--the moose just chose other places to cross the roads or the sensors failed to detect them when they did choose the “right” crosswalks. That attempt was abandoned only after a year of trials. Imagine such a patient and caring populace.

The next attempt to prevent car/moose meetings centered on “moose bridges.” The road builders designed earthen viaduct structures to permit the moose to cross atop the moving traffic. However, so far this method has not been an outstanding success because, again, the moose don’t particularly like their bridges and simply choose to walk across the road at another location. The Norwegians are nothing if not patient, so they have not abandoned this trial yet and are confident they are seeing signs that the moose are

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“learning” the right crossovers. Imagine the people of this very small country (4.5 million souls) being willing to devote significant treasure to protect their moose as well as their peoples! Each bridge costs somewhere between $500,000 and $800,000 to construct. The Island of Spitsbergen Everything went quite smoothly at the airport and we were soon aboard our Braathens flight to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, the largest of the islands of the Svalbard. Spitsbergen means jagged peaks and these glaciated mountains we flew over certainly merit that description. We have learned that Svalbard means “cold edge” and that the region was mentioned in the Icelandic sagas of the 8 th and 9 th centuries; therefore the Vikings must have known about this remote archipelago on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

The flight was spectacular during the last 30-40 minutes when we were flying slow and low over the remarkable landscape of this Arctic archipelago. Mountains appearing to be composed of sand piles, glaciers heading for the sea, snow fields blindingly white under the sun and blue sky! The inner walls of various cirques were dramatic with the lines of remaining snow looking like fossil plants espaliated white against the brown. Nunataks filled the upper sections of the glacial rivers of ice, sharp and jagged peaks emerging from their thick winter snow blankets. Occasionally, green mosses could be seen near the streams and in shallow ponds where melted water stood. Everyone was amazed at the extent and beauty of this Arctic scene. We flew for 30 minutes over the mountains and glaciers before reaching Longyearbyen and its airport completed in l975.

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The City of Longyearbyen Upon landing, completely breathless with the panoramas we had just seen, we were met by Lindblad folks who loaded us on busses (after taking our passports from us) to have a “city tour” given by a 23 year old native of the little outpost. 1700 folks live in this strange little town, present because of the coal deposits but also because Norway wants a presence in this protectorate area. The coal has never been mined for a profit; instead the mines are always operated at a loss to the government of Norway. The region’s governor who is an appointee of the Norwegian government lives in this little town and is the real power here--over ecology and environment, business practices, all legal matters public or private and infrastructure. The town has a hospital with 3 surgeons, a post office, hotels, a school, a church, a branch of the University of Norway, a sports facility, several stores, and many kinds of housing from large “apartment” houses to individually owned places (becoming more prevalent in recently years). An architectural board determines the colors that all dwellings and other buildings are to be painted--all to relieve the relative colorlessness of this area, particularly in winter; therefore we saw houses of yellow, pink, brick red, blue, brown, green, and lots of other shades and this array of colors certainly does much to improve the rather stark appearing town built on gravelly sand permafrost with elevated pipes running everywhere.

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We toured the Art Gallery (where we bought our souvenir picture--a wonderful polar bear drawing) and the local Svalbard Museum. Both were small but very interesting for lots of different reasons: curiosity about the history of the town and its mining heritage, about the Nazi German activities here, about what the people do to entertain themselves in this bleak and dark environment when winter comes. As they say up here, day lasts from about June to August and night takes the rest of the calendar to pass. We were also taken to the little downtown area where there were a couple of shops, a bakery, and a grocery store. Then the highlight of the town tour was a visit to the polar dog kennels and a little further on down the same road (there aren’t many here) we saw the town’s only road sign--though it was meant for all of Svalbard, The sign warned about polar bear crossings on the roads and anywhere else they wanted to be. They are protected and have been since l972. OUR VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY Finally, we were taken to the M/S Endeavour to find our cabin where our luggage awaited us. Very shortly afterwards, we had lifeboat drill and a welcome aboard champagne party in the Lounge. Then it was back to the cabin to unpack before going upstairs for a meeting with Expedition Leader and his staff as well as some key people on the ship. Supper was a 7:30 PM and it was delicious. We sat with John Stepplestroesser, a geologist and one of the naturalist staff. A large and rather self-important fellow, he nevertheless had some interesting stories to tell about his life in Antarctica, Russia and the Svalbard, exploring for coal. Fog rolled in during dinner which rescued us from having to go up to the Lounge or Library to watch the marvelous scenery roll by as we had been doing before supper. So

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we got back to our cabin about 9 PM and will be glad of another early night even though the sky is pretty bright outside our very small porthole.

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Exterior of our expedition ship and a look at our comfortable cabin

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Hornsund Fjord--East Coast Of Spitsbergen On first peering out of the porthole this morning around 7 AM, we were still in the fogbound world and could see very little except the waterline which is just a bit below our window. However, we got up & dressed and headed for our 7:30 breakfast buffet. By that time, we were in a glorious setting under bright blue skies and surrounded by marble “peaklets” and sedimentary sand hills. Birds were raucous on the cliff faces and the sea was smooth as the granite statues in Vigeland Park. Wisps of fog meandered about the scene, but stayed low and gauzy. Our view was magnificent and the weather was actually quite pleasant--probably about 40 degrees.

After breakfast and gawking at the scenery, we met in the Lounge for a briefing about our first onshore activity and how to behave in polar bear country. Then we were sent to our cabins to don the Wellys for the first time. Ralph informed us that here in the Arctic, every landing is a wet landing so we need not even ask. Zodiacs ride the same in the Arctic as in the Galapagos or Antarctica. We landed near an old trapper hut near the shore and divided into the groups that would climb the hillside and those wiser folks who elected to walk along the shore.

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That was a rather tall order on the clamber up the steep, rocky, moss-covered hillside towards the bird cliffs. But we managed and got to the resting spots with the others. It was a challenging hike however because it was quite steep and footing could be tricky.

It was curious to be led and followed by men with serious-looking rifles over their shoulders and flare guns in their pockets. Also, there were wandering lookouts everywhere similarly armed. We were told to stay in our groups always with no straying or lagging allowed.

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At our first stop, someone in the group looked out into the side bay at a large skerry with a W-formation cutting partway through its blackness. There to the right of the cut was our first polar bear! He was climbing about on the rocky formation and then took to the sea for a swim. Quickly, there were naturalists tracking him in Zodiacs as we continued up the hillside. We were beneath Barnacle Geese flying about, Kittiwakes and Guillemots nesting in the niches and ledges of the face, looking alertly for Arctic Fox . Of the foxes, we saw nothing, but we did learn something about the bird life and examined the beautiful and dainty little tundra and moss flowers: whites, purples, pale pinks. The mossy patches were spongy but supportive and we felt a little guilty walking on these little tussocks. The grass was a bit more slippery but gave good footing as well. Rocks were continuously being plucked out of position by our boots and that was a bit more unsettling. However, we made the climb up and the steep descent without incident.

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Trapper Cabin The trapper cabin was very small, dark, and divided into three basic rooms: an entry way, a kitchen/stove area, and the bunkroom. There were windows surprisingly enough. The whole basic structure was covered with tarpaper which is replaced on a yearly basis due to the high winds and the clawing of polar bears.

It was not really imaginable to think of spending a whole year in that hut, especially during the 4 months of complete darkness. Stefan told us that trappers had to be hardy in mind and body, inventive and clever at repair, and ready to stay focused and constantly busy even on the worst days. It was suicidal mentally and physically to “rest” on a single day. Two men could not share a cabin over the long year since tempers would fray and murder might result. As he said, “these men did not ask their best friend to accompany them for the year.” There are still trappers’ cabins all over the Svalbard but no one is allowed to hunt any animals. There is one diehard trapper who could not adjust to the urban world and he stays in the Svalbard in one of these huts. However, he now makes his living by playing the stock market thanks to his computer and internet connection. He actually is making more money than he ever made in his trapper life. Imagine someone sitting up about 200 miles from the North Pole in the middle of Arctic Ocean on a tiny scrap of line making his living playing the stock market. What a brave new world!

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During our Zodiac return to the Endeavour we also spotted a Bearded Seal in the water. His head above the water surface looked enormous to us but we never got a really close look at his body since he stayed low in the water. We saw Black Guillemots (which have a large white triangle on each wing folded on their backs) as opposed to the Common Guillemots which do not. We were also informed that all the driftwood and even lumber that we had seen and would be seeing on our landings came from Siberia via the big rivers there which emptied into the sea and then were brought to Svalbard by the oceanic currents. Observing this phenomenon was one of the factors which led Nansen to his ideas about the circulation of the waters of the Arctic Ocean and then led him to believe that if he allowed a ship to become frozen into the ice at the proper point, it would be swept over the North Pole by these currents. The theory was interesting but it failed to bring the Fram to the Pole; however it was the beginning of the study of oceanographic circulation and currents,

The views from the boat were so commanding that it was hard to break away for lunch but of course we did and it was delicious and we were quite thirsty too. As we were finishing our lunch, Ralph received a call from the bridge and then we were told to go outside as quickly as we wished because a bear had been spotted on the ice.

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He was a big fellow though quite far away. Now we understood why we were instructed to look for yellowish fur balls when bear-spotting. When the bears are wet, their black skin is seen clearly through the fur and the bears look very dark against the ice. As he dries, his color becomes less dark but not white--it’s more yellow-ochre. The boat slid towards him but he was quite unimpressed and unconcerned with us. He was hunting seals. There were two Ring Seals lounging on the ice near a lead who seemed at first to be unaware of his stalking them. We wondered if we were going to see nature “red in tooth and claw” but the seals suddenly saw him and plunged right into the open water. The bear was disappointed but Magnus told us that was not unusual since polar bears are only successful in their hunting about 2% of the time. Looking down at the ice, we decided it was “rotten” because there were many holes in it where the sea water boiled up and over the sheets. When the ship came through it sent cracks along the ice and parts would turn over so that we could see that it was about 4 inches thick. It would not have held us up as it did the bear. We saw his tracks in the ice and his feet are huge, like webbed feet, and he distributes his great weight over 4 points rather than two. The ice looked rather like soapy suds as we looked down on it.

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Polar Bear Still-Hunting Our bear continued hunting and demonstrated yet another method he uses--still hunting. When he finds a breathing hole used by seals (his favorite food by far), he sits next to it patiently with his nose pointing towards the approach from under the water and waits, sometimes up to 24 hours, for a seal to emerge for a breath of air. Our fellow however must not have been that hungry because he tired of the still hunting rather quickly and went on walking across the ice. When he reached the lead in front of him, he slid right in- -nothing like how gingerly we get into the much warmer water in our pool. He swam efficiently and it seemed pretty fast to us as well, but Magnus told us that the seals can easily out swim him. We also learned that beluga whales sometimes tease the slower polar bear in the water by getting underneath him and blowing bubbles which really freaks him out. Walrus also sometimes harass the bears while they swim because even those big fellows can swim much faster than the bear. Our wonderful “gyro” binoculars were perfect for the long viewing time we spent watching this big fellow on the ice. What a wonderful day--two polar bears in perfect weather and sea conditions. Our intention to read for a while was rudely but happily interrupted when Ralph announced that there was a Bearded Seal on an ice floe dead ahead. We jumped up and ran to the top of the ship and there he was. What a strange looking guy he was too. We think he should be called the “whiskered” seal instead because he has a Teddy Roosevelt mustache which makes him look rather like a walrus. He is a very round and fat fellow too with front flippers that look too short for his body. He is a grayish color except for a reddish brown face and head. No wonder he can appear so comfortable on an ice bed; he is rolling in blubber which tends to make fat wrinkles on his body below his shoulders along the back. He was very aware that we were trying to sneak up on him and was wary but he really didn’t care. He lazily looked at the huge boatload of humans staring out at him, aiming binoculars, cameras and spotting scopes at him--and he curled up and went sound asleep. Another little bonus was seeing a semicircular arc of Barnacle Geese swimming in close formation in front of the ship. They stayed ahead for a bit but we began to worry if they were going to try bow-riding like the dolphins. They didn’t though--they pulled over and let the Endeavour pass them on the left.

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We Go Sea Kayaking

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Sea kayaking lessons were next on our agenda because the Expedition Leader announced that we would never find more perfect conditions for indulging. It didn’t sound too complicated so we signed up to go. Our rain suits and Wellys once again were perfect. The kayaks are large yellow inflatable craft which are virtually unsinkable unless you do stupid things like getting too close to a bergie bit that rolls or run aground too close to shore. They have the most efficient and easy way of getting folks into the kayaks too. There is a platform placed near shore which is about a foot submerged. The kayaks are slid over the platform and the paddlers climb in from the Zodiacs quite easily with the crew and guides keeping the kayaks from slipping away from the awkward and slow. What a super experience it was too--paddling around in the beautiful bay surrounded by mountains with great white clouds radiating out from their peaks, deep blue sky overhead, bergie bits and growlers floating all around. The water was so smooth it looked like liquid silver rolling away from the “prow” of the kayak. We could hear the roar of waterfalls coming off the tidal glaciers as they tumbled in icefalls from the mountains’ steep sides. There were black guillemots bobbing along beside us as well. The quiet was so captivating too because you could almost feel like you were enjoying the bay by yourself. A good laugh was had when Kay tried to point out something interesting dead ahead and Lois could not find it. Finally, after many explanations and directions, she saw it-- was a very large cruise ship which was in the channel out in the middle part of Hornsund Fjord (it could not have come into the area where we were trying our paddles). Another wonderful sight was the patterning of the remaining snow in the bowls of the cliffs and peaks we were seeing as we floated along. The streaks of snow looked like lightning bolts against the dark brown “sky” of the mountains and cliffs. We loved this experience and will want to try it again when the conditions are right again. Sat at dinner with John S. again and heard wonderfully interesting stories about his life and experiences in polar places, especially the South Pole region, including the Russian station of Vostok which sits on the huge fresh water lake that scientists are trying to figure out how to explore without contaminating its waters. There are wild speculations about what they might find once they enter the enclosed lake: old life forms, microbes, or even sterility? No one knows, of course. He also talked to us about the difficulties of running aircraft on Antarctica as well as other machines like tractors and trucks. Airplanes are by far the most difficult and simply cannot be flown during the austral winter months. His stories were all plausible and entertaining. We went to bed around midnight and knew that there was plenty of light outside but lots of fog too.

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Fogbound In Svalbard Today we awoke to a world outside our porthole that looked like a bale of cotton. The fog was thick and it would not dissipate for many hours. That seemed pretty obvious and even Ralph, our EL, reported that we might as well relax after breakfast and figure out what to do with ourselves because we seemed to be in some pretty thick stuff. We read a while and Kay worked on the pictures and then we went to lunch which was also an interesting experience because we ate with the ship’s doctor. He was enlightening regarding what special training he had to have before signing on with Lindblad--a week with the Coast Guard learning firefighting techniques and personal survival. He also told us that Lindblad doesn’t want surgeons, only internists & family practitioners. Why? After lunch we read some more and then learned that we were approaching a huge ice cap and glacier formation on Northeast Land which would be explored by Zodiac cruising. The ice cap is the second largest in the Northern Hemisphere after Greenland’s and would take 20 hours to completely circle in the Endeavour. Zodiac Ride with Bar Service Our Zodiac ride was wonderful because the scenery was spectacular with icebergs floating around us and the world looking silver and gray with veins of blue in the glacier face. Something completely new to us: waterfalls coming right out of the glacier wall. Enormous amounts of water were pouring through round holes in the ice, through slits in the face, and leaking out the bottom at the tide line. We'd never seen anything like it before and our Zodiac driver told us that just last week there were no waterfalls there!

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Here we were out there in our open Zodiacs, when suddenly another Zodiac approached with a huge yellow flag flapping above the stern. Wonder of wonders! It was the “hot chocolate delivery” boat. Our hostess gave everyone the choice of plain hot chocolate or hot chocolate with whiskey. Well, we didn’t want to ruin a good cup of hot cocoa, so we took ours “straight.” What a great surprise!

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It was a treat to be in Magnus’ zodiac as he was full of wonderful stories about his experiences in Africa, Kazakhstan, and in service with Lindblad. He knew much about the early explorations in this area and was good at sharing them with us.

Meanwhile, the cold but beautiful seascape all around us was breathtakingly scenic. The glacier face looked like carved Carrera marble friezes and the icebergs were endlessly different in their shapes and sculptured features. The sky was gray and the fogbank stood back away from us for a while so we could enjoy this enchanted place in the Arctic. Birds flew along with us and skimmed the ocean’s surface with incredible ease. Some even

landed in the cold seawater and looked perfectly content. Hilarious Story of Man and Polar Bear Encounter

Back on the Endeavour, we had about half an hour before “recap” in the Lounge. We came in little late and got in on a wonderful story about a Norwegian who was helping to man the radio station on Bear Island which is a bit south of the Svalbard but still included in the Treaty. Since the radio station is really not necessary except as a presence in the area (for political purposes), the men on the station often relax, drink a little and play contentious and raucous card games. One fellow went outside to check some equipment and when he turned to come back inside the stationhouse, he realized that there was a polar bear between him & the front door. When he tried to go around to back of the building, he discovered another bear. Feeling pretty desperate, he ducked into a tiny storage shed and slammed the door. One of the bears was right behind and began

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scratching and clawing at the door and the sides of the shed. Meanwhile, he was screaming and yelling and gesticulating wildly through the windows to his buddies who continued drinking and playing cards, laughing and talking. Though his attempts at catching their attention grew more and more frantic, he made no headway at all. Outside the shed, the bears were also making more and more determined efforts to get inside the shed with him! The man became quite unnerved realizing that he was never going to survive if he couldn’t get some help. Suddenly, he remembered that there was a reserve short-wave radio set housed in the shed and he quickly got it ready to use. All the while hearing the scratching and tearing of the bears, he kept attempting to reach someone for help. Amazingly enough, the first person to answer him was a guy in Chile in South America. Luckily, he spoke English so the beleaguered Norseman was able to describe his plight. The Chilean radioed Oslo which then radioed Bear Island, reaching the partying men inside the main stationhouse. The radioman in Oslo asked, “Is everything all right there? “Yes, course” was the answer. Then Oslo asked, “Aren’t you missing someone?” They then realized that their buddy was indeed not with them. And that is how the poor man was finally rescued before the bears managed to pull down the storage shed! HINLOPEN STRAIT This morning we were awakened by Ralph’s cheery “Good Morning, Everyone, Good Morning” at 7 AM. He reported that we had sailed back south during the night and were now at a point in the strait where a walrus “haul out beach” had been spotted and we were going ashore to see the big creatures. There was still fog around so the spotters weren’t sure whether or not we would be able to take any walks around the beach area, but we were asked to sign up quickly for the long, medium or short walk just in case. Kay rushed upstairs to sign us up for the long walk and then we had to be at breakfast by 7:30 since the long walkers would begin boarding the Zodiacs around 8 AM Stalking the Hauled-out Walrus It was much colder here (around 32 degrees F) than our previous landings so we bundled up appropriately. When we got into the Zodiacs we saw that the skies were still leaden, the fog banks were hanging around, the sea was choppier than we had seen previously and it was penetratingly cold. However, the landing went smoothly and we tumbled off the Zodiacs onto a very pebbly beach with stones bigger than golf balls but smaller than baseballs. As we crept quietly towards the haul-out, the stones became smaller and by the time we were told to bend over sharply and get on our bellies to crawl up the little rise, the rocks were much smaller and quite comfortable to lie prone on. (Note from the vertically challenged: as I approached the viewing area, Stefan touched me lightly on the shoulder and said, “You don’t have to bend over!”)

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Once at the top of the little rise, we could see about 25-30 big walrus all heaped in a pile just a few yards beyond us. Everyone was remarkably quiet and we all had sensational views of the sleeping creatures.

Huge tusks protruded everywhere in every direction: up, down, sideways, half hidden by other bodies, completely visible and even pointed skyward. These were males who are in a molting state and we were surprised to see their bumpy and very pink skins as the new skin emerges; some looked redder than others, almost bloody, but these were just farther along in the molt. They seemed somewhat testy and grumpy since occasionally one would try to switch positions and obviously annoy his neighbors who would rear up and

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aim their tusks pointedly at the offender. They grunted and groaned and farted with both audible and olfactory consequences. Their wonderful whiskers were bristly and prominent and when in the right angle to our peering eyes, very impressive.

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Brent (naturalist walking with us & carrying the big rifle) told us that walrus mostly eat clams which they are able to suck up from the mud at the bottoms of the seas and then force open with their very powerful cheek muscles and ability to force water into the clam shells. It did not appear that they could move very rapidly on land but when a big fellow would rear up and seem to look intently at the top of the little rim of beach where we lay “spying,” we all wondered about that conclusion because there wasn’t much distance between the warm pile of walrus (officially called a “huddle”) and us. Another fact we learned here is that both seal and walrus groupings are called “herds.” After we had lay on the rocks for about 20 minutes, we got up to do some walking, though whether or not it was the long walk originally contemplated, we never knew. The walking was not difficult even though we did climb up some pebbly shelves (successive beach areas caused by the isotonic uplift of land as the ice shelf melted over the centuries). We saw amazing little flowering plants, tiny, but colorful. Some in pincushion shapes, others just staying as close to the pebbles as possible to keep out of the wind. The colors were deeply saturated and quite beautiful, especially in contrast to the stark surroundings: whites, purples, yellows and pinks. However, the rocks and pebbles were also of diverse colorations and markings too. The gray sky and overall ochre color of the beach provided a very satisfactory background to the flowers. Among the flowering plants were the mosses and lichens in very subdued colors except for a deep black lichen which contrasted dramatically with its surroundings.

Other objects on the shelves included reindeer scat and antlers as well as whale bones, chiefly bones of the skull, like jaws and the rostrum. Very white and weathered so probably had been there for very long periods of time, even centuries. We were also walked towards a 60’ cliff overlooking the sea but there was also a shelf full of snow between the top where we stood and the ocean which was a dull green and very cold looking.

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Lecture on Arctic Wildlife On coming back to the Endeavour, our Zodiac ride was quite bumpy and rather exciting but getting back on the ship was not difficult. We rested a short while and then went up to the Lounge to hear Tom Smith’s lecture on Arctic wildlife. He has done considerable scientific work with many of these creatures for the Canadian government and with the Norwegians. He informed us that the Harp Seals which were the objects of protest by Greenpeace several years ago are now over-populated (about 7.5 million now as opposed to 2.5 million in the 80s) and are causing degradation of the cod supply for themselves and all other creatures including man who are dependent on the cod. Their ecological impact presently is very damaging. Though the market for harp seal pup fur has rebounded after having dropped dramatically during the Greenpeace protests, only 300,000 are taken annually which does nothing to control or reduce the population overall. Though the Canadian government did respond to the worldwide outpouring of emotion due to the very effective Greenpeace protest, it only postponed the time that the pups could be harvested. Now the pups must be at least 6 weeks old and in their “blue” period before they can be taken. Even execution methods were not really “improved” by the protest according to Tom. The Ring Seal is the most important food source in the entire Arctic region and its numbers are quite secure according to Tom. Though many creatures eat the seal, from polar bears to man to walrus to other seals, they have easily sustainable numbers and are not endangered. He also reported that the polar bear population in Arctic Canada is stable even though the Inuit peoples are allowed to take 550 bears annually. After the lecture, we went to lunch and enjoyed some table conversation with some fellow travelers who lent us a book called “Summer Light” by a fellow who hiked from Oslo to Bergen and took a trip similar to ours by boat as well as the voyage up the west coast Norway like the one we anticipate in August. They thought it would add to our enjoyment of this experience and the upcoming one. These ladies also told us about Grace: an amazing lady who appears to be in her 80s who lives on the M/S Endeavour throughout the summer. She simply buys fares for all 5 of the Svalbard trip which Lindblad runs each year. She was apparently at one time the Attorney General of Alaska and simply loves the Arctic scenery and the shipboard lifestyle. Now we are doing the diary and the pictures and waiting for another lecture at around 3 PM in the Lounge. We are running south to avoid being trapped in the ice and the seas are heavier than earlier. Around 3 o’clock we thought there would be a talk of some sort, so we moseyed on up to the Lounge. Since nothing was doing, we went out on deck to look at the amazing vistas before us--bergie bits, flat sea ice, and seabirds of several varieties. As we watched, we heard Stefan tell the bridge personnel that he had found a bear on the sea ice by using his spotting scope. Outside we dashed and were grateful for the warm clothing because we quickly picked him out with our binoculars too.

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He was walking about on the ice floe rather aimlessly until we saw him move purposefully towards a depression in the ice and then we saw that he had made a kill. He was in process of eating the seal so he would come over and strip a couple of meat pieces off and devour it. Accompanying him were two ivory gulls, the first of these we had seen. We watched our Mr. Diner Bear for quite some time as he indecisively strolled about, jumped into the sea for a swim, came back to the kill site, and finally slipped off into the water again and began swimming at a 90 degree angle away from the ship. We lost him in the swells and turned again to check out the kill site more closely and also to appreciate the ivory gulls more. Then it was time for tea in the Lounge while we awaited a talk on seabirds of the Arctic by one of the naturalists, Brent. He had a good slide presentation with excellent examples of all the birds he mentioned. Because the slides were so clear, we recognized a couple of birds we had definitely seen but were not sure of their names: the Glaucous Winged Gull and the Dovekie or Little Auk . The talk was enjoyable and it was good to see all the bird life that calls Svalbard home for at least part of the year. Hike Cancelled by Bear Ralph next got us all excited about going on shore. Dinner was moved back to 8 PM and we signed up for the medium walk (the long walk was already filled by the time we got to Reception). We ran back to the cabin to get geared up for the cold and since no call for medium walkers ever came we went eagerly to the “side gate” on the 200 deck. We found

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that they had already started to load our fellow medium length walkers so we were relieved we had “come on down.” We got into the Zodiac and settled ourselves for a cold ride over the waves to the landing site when suddenly Lisa (Asst. EL) told us to get back off the Zodiac because a bear had been spotted near the landing. Immediately all the Zodiacs were launched and the 30 long walkers already ashore were very efficiently returned to the ship as well as all the staff. Of course, that meant that our evening shore excursion was scrubbed. We all watched the intruder bear way up on a rock face quite a bit away from the proposed landing site. However, we realize these animals can move very rapidly and so understand the necessary caution of Lindblad. One polar bear “accident” and that would be the end of the company. Not one of the naturalists understood what the bear was doing so high on the rock face because there are no rodents or birds in that area. They also believed that he could easily get down whenever he chose to do so. Guess he was just interested in geology. With this disappointment, our Filipino buffet supper was moved forward again, but first we got to see some footage from the ROV which had gone undersea in front of the ice cap face we had visited yesterday. It was fascinating viewing the small invertebrate creatures floating in the water. The undersea photographer even found a couple of sea spiders for us. He told us about “marine snow” which is the white material floating in suspension in the waters--no doubt made up of all kinds of detritus including waste materials from the animals, bodies of creatures both large and small in states of decay, accretions of minerals, etc. We would certainly like to see more from ROV filming later in the cruise. Walrus Facts We had another talk from Tom Smith on walruses but we had already heard much of what he had to say at another time. He spoke about walrus breeding, food consumption including clams and seals, molting, long period of lactation (18 months), their ability to fend off and even kill polar bears. They can weigh about 3500 lbs. & consume about 70m lbs. of food daily. Their suction strength is truly phenomenal and they are excellent divers, able to go down 150 meters and stay down 45 minutes. The Filipino buffet was delicious and we enjoyed it immensely and totally. However, we are still left today with two questions with no answer even after having looked for some naturalists after dinner: 1) where do polar bears get their fresh water and how often must they have it? 2) How often do they need to sleep? The captain told us he was going to head into an area the ship had not ever gone before, trying to find more landing places in the north. Then we would turn south again and search for the pack ice to find more polar bears for viewing. So we went to bed not knowing if we would sleep the night through or be called for more sightings.

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Land of the Midnight Sun Around 1:10 AM, we got our answer when Ralph’s cheery voice greeted us on the intercom with a good morning briefing about a polar bear in front of the ship. We hurriedly dressed and rushed up on deck (Kay made it up there about 5 minutes before Lois could get it together). It was 32 degrees and a thin rain was falling, but since there is no night viewing the surreal scene was easy. The bear was just waddling along, spraddle- legged on the ice, with no apparent purpose. The polar bear gait is typical since they all seem to demonstrate the same awkward-looking forward motion with lots of side to side balancing, no doubt to keep from breaking through the rotten ice. They also characteristically periodically and regularly turn their heads to either side, lift their snouts and sniff the air. The whole choreography of their “procession” across the ice appears to be inherent to the species. When we were sufficiently frozen from our outside gazing, we went back to the cabin to go to sleep again. Lois never did get back to slumberland and was completely awake when Ralph next alerted us to another bear about 3 AM. He said this appeared to be a young bear who might exhibit some curiosity about us and stay around a bit longer. So once again, we struggled up and back into our full gear since he reported that real rain was falling this time along with the continued cold. Once more, Kay made it up on deck first and, when Lois joined her a couple of minutes later, told her that this bear was on his way away from the ship too. The only behavior he had exhibited other than ambling across the ice was to lie down at one point, roll on his back and wave his legs in the air. He did not indulge in this youthful game very long and by the time Lois had him in her binocular sights, he was wobbling across the ice again--away from the ship and into the fog bank. Thoughts on the Polar Bear Apparently, it is believed that polar bears broke off, evolutionarily speaking, fairly recently from grizzly bears; but the few connections between the two other than the obvious “bearishness” suggest they have moved a long way off. Along about 4 AM, the strangeness of the life of “Ursus Maritimus” begins to flood into the mind with a clarity that you wonder you hadn’t felt before. This huge animal lives in a world of silvers, grays, whites, glacial blues, constant fog and precipitation, and walking on water. His world is a frozen sea with lesser or greater degrees of rigidity in the ice depending on the season. He swims with great strength and without hesitancy in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean and its various included “seas” and fjords, and bays. He depends upon the ocean for his food. Finally, it becomes clear that what makes one uncomfortable about his way of life is his four legs. It is not that he breathes air--so do seals, walruses and whales. It is not even that he must earn his livelihood from the sea creatures--so do birds and seals and walruses and whales. It is not that he can swim tirelessly for more than 100 miles easily during a day--so do the seals and walruses and whales. No, it is those four legs. They make it seem that he should be walking upon solid earth--not out in a wilderness of sea water frozen to a thickness that he can tread upon.

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