Cruising Svarlbad-the Arctic

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by latrobe, Mar 4, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. latrobe
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    latrobe Silver Member

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    Another in my wish list adventures.The main desire was to see polar bears.The report starts with our flight from OSL on SAS-


    Check in at OSL was slow as there were several large groups.Had bought these tickets on line and it stated I needed original CC at checkin for ID so I bought my now inactive DC.However wasn't needed.No waiting at security,No lounge access[​IMG].So to gate-very few seats so glad we got there early as usual.The monitor at the gate warned us of what was ahead-
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    Yes Longyearbyen just 3C.
    SK4414.OSL-TRS-LBY.ETD-0955.Actual-1000
    ETA-1355.Actual-1345
    We have seats 21B,C-Yes it is true-in Y,and very discount at that.No FF points even if you were in SAS's program.On a B737-800.The leg shot-
    [​IMG]

    Uneventful flight.Lots got off at TRS but an equal number boarded there so a full flight all the way.Tea or coffee all that was complimentary.The snacks were smaller and dearer than those on AY.
    Interesting carousel at LBY-
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    Apparently this young male attacked a couple of Norwegian students about a KM from the airport a few years ago killing one hence becoming stuffed.Our bags are well into the second half of those out so as we exit the terminal the first bus to town is already full.But we had done our research and lined up at the taxi rank-4 people were just getting into a taxi so we were next in line.The bus costs 75NOK each.However the next taxi was a minivan and we invited people to share-did with 3 other couples so cost us 50NOK.And we beat the bus to our hotel-the Radisson Blu.Review here-
    http://www.australianfrequentflyer.c...ard-25130.html (Radisson Blu Longyearbyen,Svalbard.)
    Next Longyearbyen.​
     
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  2. latrobe
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    Well we are well and truly in the Arctic circle now.Longyearbyen is 78 degrees north.It was a coal mining centre and it shows-
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    It is a pretty desolate place.The main drag-
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    After we had checked in we walked down here-most of the shops etc are along here.Mrslatrobe had set her heart on buying an Oleana jumper in Norway-they got a lot of publicity when Michelle Obama bought 4.Well they had them here and tax free so instead of $500 it was $330.The Amex got warmed up.
    The restaurants in town weren't much so we decided to eat at the hotel.Luckily we had not eaten lunch so went to the restaurant at 6pm to be told it was booked out but if we started straight away we could stay.The A La Carte menu was limited so we had the buffet which had several interesting items.I tried the smoked whale-assured it was Mincke.Also seal,reindeer,venison and assorted fish species.The buffet was 325NOK($65).
    Most of the staff here are Thai-as is a fairly large percentage of the population.The population though has a frontier mentality and many are carrying rifles-not allowed to go outside the city limits without one.

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    After dinner I went to use the internet.It was free but you needed a password.After ringing 3 times and being unable to access with the password given I went to the desk and got it written down-letters when spoken by a Norwegian just dont sound the same.
    That night it got down to minus 3C and had snowed.There were signs the locals weren't worried-
    [​IMG]

    Next-time to say goodbye to Longyearbyen.​
     
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  3. latrobe
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    latrobe Silver Member

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    The last day in Longyearbyen.
    We started off with a good breakfast.i approached the desk when going back to the room and got out-"Could we get a..." when straight back came-"No.Chechout is 1100".So checkout was at 1100 but embarkation wasn't until 1500-so we walked down to the local museum.Quite intersting-75NOK and at least it was inside-bitterly cold today,it had snowed overnight.The lobby was a zoo as many were on the 2 ships going out plus all those who had disembarked waiting for a room.Fortunately we had booked a taxi for 1430 because by 1100 there were no more taxis left.Our taxi was stolen by a Colombian fellow so we commandeered the next-this time only a small car but only cost us 58NOK or $11.Those who booked the Silverseas bus transfer were slugged $US39 each.
    At checkin on the boat they take your passport and you get it back when you pay your on board account.Oh no!Hostages.But then given a glass of champagne-OK fair swap.Down to restaurant for a late lunch whilst our bags are taken to our suite.Then to room-a bottle of champagne and a fruit bowl.Never got to drink the champagne as standard drinks on board are included.So views of our suite,first an impressive bathroom with separate bath and shower-
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    And a walkin robe-
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    Then the living room-
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    More of the PA11 next.
     
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  4. latrobe
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    Next was the bedroom-
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    On the bed are the parkas you get-just so they wont lose you!
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    With great views out the window.

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    And of course latrobe has to try out the bed.
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    Just before we leave the Quest leaves-we would see it several times in the next week.
    Then came the mandatory safety and lifeboat drill followed by a talk on the intended activities-naturally accompanied by a glass of champagne.Then it is time to sail and we look back on Longyearbyen-
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    Everyone is out on deck taking photos.Wind ++ and it is bitterly cold.1930 and time for dinner.The quality of the food is very good but thankfully at dinner the portions are not too big.There is a reasonable selection of complimentary wines though more upmarket ones can be purchased.During dinner the recent arthritis in my right hand flares-almost certainly due to the cold.My third MCP joint swells ++.Back to room and take a cocktail of panadol,mobic and colchicine plus a soak in warm water.
    Dont sleep very well.In the morning heat is better than anything so I decide to enter my Jacko phase.I have a glove on my right hand from then on.Worked well and certainly better than drugs.
    Next-the first day of cruising.​
     
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  5. latrobe
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    On our way out of the fjord we pass more evidence of the old mining activity with a bucket line still intact-
    [​IMG]
    And as always in the next 10 days we had avian escorts-
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    Now for our first day.Naturally starts with breakfast which was a very good spread.Getting very used to my morning herrings.Interestingly they serve 3 kinds of bacon-US,cremated-UK,normal-and Canadian,processed.Then we have to be ready for our first zodiac landing at the 14th July glacier-lots of bird life and glacier calving.Also a seal cruises the shore keeping an eye on us.We are here though because this glacier was named by Prince Albert first of Monaco.It was a good idea to bring walking poles.Certainly saved my bacon coming back down from the Glacier.On the way back to the ship the zodiac does a detour to a puffin nesting site.Now for the pictures-
    [​IMG]
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    More ice next.
     
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  6. latrobe
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    Well more pics of the Glacier and ice-
    [​IMG]
    And now on top of the Glacier-
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    And the PA11 in the background-
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    And more ice-
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    After getting back on the ship we were served hot chocolate-boy was that appreciated.The problem though was that we are not experienced cold travellers so I had too much on and despite all the advice removing layers was not easy.So a nice shower when back to the cabin and for the next landing a totally different approach to the layers which worked fine for me.
    Then of course it was time for lunch-accompanied by wine-on this cruise a good blend of French,US,South American,South African and NZ wines.At meals we elected to be seated with whoever turned up next so met a wide variety of people-on this occasion a Dutch couple whose daughter was on the Expedition staff and whose family lived in Perth.
    Next Ny-Alesund​
     
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  7. latrobe
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    After lunch we arrived in Ny Alesund.The world's most northerley settlement at 79 degrees north.A wharf here so just walked off the boat.The place basically is a collection of Arctic research stations including the Chinese and Koreans.A 70kph wind made it particularly bleak.
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    one very important building though not open when we were there-
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    You could get your passport stamped here but as we have used half our pages in 2 years we declined.In the middle of town is a statue of Roald Amunsen who set off from here in the 20's to fly an airship to the North Pole with Nobilo and the blessings of Il Duce.He died a year later when flying from Tromso to here to search for his partner who tried the airship flight again.His plane was called"Latham"-we could have told him not a name to bring good luck.
    [​IMG]
    The place was also a coal mining venture until the early years of last century.There are still some reminders-
    [​IMG]

    Next leaving Ny Alesund.​
     
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  8. latrobe
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    It was so cold we decided to go back to the ship early and had a cappucino to warm ourselves up.That night was the Captain's cocktail party.The women dressed up.The rest of us drank champagne.From there to dinner.Sat with a couple from BNE though he works in Karratha.Made my commute from MCY-DPO look easy.Tonight started with caviar then lobster for main course.This time with a NZ Sav.blanc to wash it down.The dessert we selected was a trio of chocolate.
    Mrslatrobe retired for the night but I was feeling very awake so went out on deck.Shared some time with the manager of the butler services.The scenery was amazing and we just kept passing glaciers-
    [​IMG]
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    After a while I asked a casual question-"how many polar bears have we passed since dinner?"Probably a few.With that I went to the bridge.As I walked in they spotted a polar bear walking along the shore.I went down to the cabin and changed and was first in line when they launched the zodiacs.The driver was the Canadian bear guard Chris who was extremely knowledgable and a great guy.Somewhere in this pic are 2 polar bears-
    [​IMG]
    There are times when a point and shoot just doesn't cut it-should have taken mrslatrobe's camera.As we were about to go back we spotted an Arctic fox already in his white winter coat.This was at Magdalena Fjord which was to be our overnight anchorage with a landing in the morning.2 polar bears in the area meant a change of plan.However not now as the decision to do this last zodiac trip was taken at 10pm.There is still no darkness this far north.So a final picture of glaciers-
    [​IMG]

    Next-Dutch whaling history.
     
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  9. latrobe
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    The next morning we awake at 6am as the ship leaves the anchorage.After breakfast we arrive at Smeerenburg which was a Dutch whaling station in the 1600s.It must have been a dreadful place.They did try to overwinter one year but all died so they would return home every winter after that.You can still make out many of the buildings,the boiling pits and many old dutch bricks scattered around.Nature however is reclaiming it and now the site of many nesting Arctic terns.
    It is our turn to be on the first trip.We are greeted at the shore by one of the bear guards-a local lady from Longyearbyen who I called-the chick with a gun.
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    It is very definitely a desolate and exposed place-
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    And evidence of the nasty trade-
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    Next some more pics before heading to some more recent history.​
     
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  10. latrobe
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    Ever since we arrived in Longyearbyen it had been cloudy.Although it was never dark we had not seen the sun until now-
    [​IMG]
    On the way back to the ship a ringed seal investigated us and followed us for a minute or so.Back on board and we were given a hot Pina Colada-really hit the spot.As we were about to leave another expedition ship arrived-The Polar Explorer.Lunch as usual was a buffet and once again very good.This time however we were seated with a group of 4 from the UK who I dont think appreciated being invaded by a bunch of colonials!
    After lunch was a lecture on glaciers then we had a walk around the ship.The hot tubs weren't getting much use-
    [​IMG]
    Nor the deck chairs-
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    In the afternoon came a visit to Virgohamna-an old Danish whaling camp.Then the base for a Swedish attempt to reach the North Pole by hot air balloon and then an attempt by an Englishman,Wellman, by airship-another grand English failure.Another desolate spot-
    [​IMG]
    But life clings to existence-
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    Next more of Virgohamna.
     
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  11. latrobe
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    It is interesting seeing the detritus of past adventures here.The scrap iron was bought in to produce the hydrogen for the airship-
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    The ceramic pipes were to transport the sulphuric acid for the reaction.
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    And this is whats left of the airship hangar-
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    And an Englishman's summer house-
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    But then there was the view as we headed back to the ship-
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    Back on board and we were served a hot ginger tea-again really appreciated.Much more appreciated was the news that another expedition ship reported that there was indeed a Celebration of polar bears in a bay just a short cruise away and we would be there in about an hour.That is next.​
     
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  12. latrobe
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    As we were cruising around to see the polar bears we had an early dinner-trio of salmon,cauliflower soup,slow roasted veal and an apple crumble.Started with a Californian SB then a French cabernet to wash it down.It was very good especially the veal.
    Soon after dinner the zodiacs are launched but we are in the second group.On the zodiac trip to and from the bears the wind is howling and it is snowing.However as soon as we turn into the bay the wind drops and the snow stops.6 bears including a mother and cub.They are feeding on a whale carcass which is now underwater so we see them swimming and diving.The photos are mrslatrobes.

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    Next more photos.​
     
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  13. latrobe
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    latrobe Silver Member

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    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]

    Of course if you turned around and looked the other way the view wasnt too bad either-
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    Of course no one was looking-
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    I dont know how many shots were taken of those bears but certainly a lot.This hour has made the whole cruise worthwhile.It was the major thing on my wish list.The zodiac trip back to the boat through the snow didn't bother us.Once on board we were given a tea with a kick-really great when coming in from the snow.
    Off to a well earned sleep after a great day.Slept in awakening~0730 to the sound and sight of sea ice.
    Next-ice cruising.​
     
  14. latrobe
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    Sunday and after brekkie we go out on the bow-cold,windy,snowing at times and crowded but I rise to the occasion-
    [​IMG]
    We decide to go back to our cabin and have room service hot chocolate.We are in the pack ice and PA11 is slicing through it.
    It is impressive-
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    We see a couple of seals and the birds as ever are still around.
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    The ice has amazing colours-
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    We get just over 81 degrees north-further than is usually done-
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    We then turn around and head back south.The plan is to head for Lagoya a known walrus haulout.Unfortunately the weather turns bad.Snowing heavily,winds gusting to 100Ks.Visibility very poor so the afternoon landing and polar plunge are off.We watch a movie instead.We have dinner with a schoolteacher couple from the South Coast of NSW and our Californian friends-their daughter lives in Tasmania.Again excellent food-smoked eel and trout tower,herb and parmesan cannelloni,lighly poached sea scallops,raspberry cheese cake-all washed down with a Pinot Gris from Alsace.
    There is a planned early start on Monday so we arrange for an early breakfast in our room.Unfortunately the weather is even worse with really gusty winds-an Arctic gale so landings for the day at Palanderbakta and Augustabakta(another walrus haul out) are cancelled.Having my morning bath and the ship is rolling-water sloshing back and forth-quite enjoyable.
    Next cruising the birdcliffs and an amazing glacier.​
     
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  15. latrobe
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    Monday and the weather is worse if anything.So again no landings at a Walrus haul out.So we head for the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet.Thousands of guillemots and guano stained cliffs.The weather is a little better and the captain does a great job drifting along the cliffs.
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    After this it was lunch time.Shared with a couple from Luxembourg,the chick with a gun and the Ship's naturalist.A really interesting time and great food again.After lunch the ship heads for Brasvellbreen-the largest glacier in the northern hemisphere with a face to the sea of 190km.
    That is next.
     
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  16. latrobe
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    When you first see Brasvellbreen it is truly wonderful.Ice as far as you can see-
    [​IMG]

    Sometimes the ice wall is high-
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    Sometimes it is breaking up-
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    But always spectacular especially when the sun briefly made an appearance-
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    Unfortunately the weather forecast doesn't improve.We had been going to steam north to a Russian settlement.It is only the second time this century that this Eastern channel has been open.The decision has been made to turn around and head for more sheltered waters.Of course as we turn and steam away the sun comes out and the wind drops-all be it for just a short time.
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    So we are feeling a bit sad when we head to dinner.Once again shared with the Californian couple and 2 English women to whom position is everything.Tonight I have a seabass carpaccio,crab spring rolls and a Zarzuela-all washed down with a chablis.Finish with a cheese plate and a nice vintage port.Once again a very good sleep.It is amazing how well I am sleeping as it still does not get dark.Overnight we head back to the north of Svalbard to another glacier-Monacobreen.That is next.​
     
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  17. latrobe
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    It was very good to get off the ship again and have a zodiac tour along Monacobreen-an actively calving and retreating glacier.A beautiful spot-
    [​IMG]
    Lots of ice in the water on the trip to the glacier-
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    An impressive ice cave-
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    As we cruised along the glacier face a polar bear was spotted swimming.The Captain was in charge of one of the zodiacs and started stalking it-a real no no.
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    We had the Canadian bear quard who was not going to follow and rightly so.So even though we caught glimpses of the bear a photo was really out of the question.
    [​IMG]
    Though when this cropped picture is blown up I can actually see it-but I know where to look on the Left border.
    Halfway through the trip we were served champagne and chocolate covered strawberries-very nice touch
     
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  18. latrobe
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    Our strawberries and other goodies-
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    And some more ice shots-
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    Back to the ship and we were served hot cinnamon tea.Then of course there was the most difficult part of the day-lunch.Shared again with our Californian friends and an English couple who have retired to France.
    After lunch back in the cabin I was downloading Mrslatrobes's photos-to do this i have to take her memory card out.As I was downloading I glance up and see a pod of Mincke whales passing astern of the boat.Well no photo evidence but I have my memories.We then stopped at a group of islands where often polar bears are seen but none today.
    At dinner we were on the table of the Expedition leader along with a different pair of Englishwomen who were very nice people.A really good nights conversation.We started with carpaccio of venison,crispy fried prawns,limoncello sorbet,osso buco.A Marlborough Sav Blanc and then a wonderful Bordeaux.
    Next-another disappointment but we get on land again.​
     
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  19. latrobe
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    We have relocated again overnight and the plan is to go ashore at Poolepynten,a known walrus haulout.We have an early breakfast,the weather is fine with the sun shining.However we cruise by Poolepynten and not a walrus to be seen so we sail on to St.Jonsfjord and go ashore.Many go on a 2 hour trek over the hill and see some reindeer.I decide my knee probably wouldn't cope so we walk along the shore.See plenty of evidence of animals with geese and reindeer scat plus reindeer,fox and bear tracks.A seal also comes in to check us out.The place is beautiful-
    [​IMG]
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    We also find some flowers surviving here-

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    Next latrobe takes the plunge,literally.​
     
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  20. latrobe
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    After returning to the boat came the polar plunge.Latrobe was mad enough to be one of the first volunteers.First they tie a rope to you.Mine was put on by the deputy expedition leader.I asked if she was experienced in tying men up and she assured me she was.So in i go-
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    Unfortunately the rope came off so rather than show off and swim around I made straight for the zodiac-
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    Back on board I was given a very nice Cognac.
    Actually the plunge was very invigorating.This made my appetite even better for the next delicious lunch which was waiting after getting changed-shared this time with NYC lawyers and a couple from the Midlands of the UK.Most of the afternoon is spent looking for the elusive walrus to no avail.However the weather is beautiful and the backdrop magnificent.
    [​IMG]
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    interesting makeup of the pax-UK-19,Aust-17,China-15,US-14,switzerland-11.Next trip reported to be 35 Australians.
    Next-last stop in Svalbad​
     
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  21. latrobe
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    Dinner that night continued the great standard-lobster medallion,mushroom soup,prime rib and an awesome chocolate mousse.Once again a Marlborough SB and a French Burgundy.Dined with a couple from the UK and another couple from New Jersey.As such a beautiful day we went up on deck and chatted until past midnight.The photo of the sun in the last post was at midnight.Chatted with the ex Amazon exec and a fellow whose company manufactures airline seats-particularly CX.
    Awoke the next morning off Bamsebu in Van Kealenfjord-an old Beluga whaling station in the early 1900s.Off the boat again.Piles of whale bones from the 1930's.Quite a few birds including pink footed geese and off in the distance reindeer.
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    Interesting bear proofing of the hunters hut-
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    Next more disturbing pics.​
     
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  22. latrobe
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    The new David Attenborough-
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    Remains of one of the whaling boats-
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    And the consequence of their activity-
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    And we all trudge back to the zodiacs for the last time on Svalbard-
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    As we start lunch the ship gets underway for Bear Island-which of course is known for its birds.It is 250 NM south.Lunch shared with the New Yorkers and Californians.Then back to the cabin for my nanny nap as the clouds roll in again.
    Dinner we have by ourselves as it is Mrslatrobe's birthday-she has hers in the Arctic and I will have mine in the Antarctic.I have the salmon tartare,fusilli puttanesca and veal medallions which are great.A sonoma chardy and a medoc with dinner.Finish with a cheese plate and port.
    Next-A pleasant surprise.
     
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  23. latrobe
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    As I said it was mrslatrobe's birthday-we had told none of the crew but they did have our passports.So on returning to the cabin we found-
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    And this-
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    And this-
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    They certainly put in some effort and mrslatrobe was impressed.
    We awoke as Bear Island came into sight.Weather cloudy,wind blowing and sea choppy.A couple of cargo vessels anchored here.A late breakfast befor getting into the Zodiacs.Our first view of the Island-
    [​IMG]

    Bear Island is next.​
     
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  24. latrobe
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    Although the zodiac ride was quite rough and we all got wet it was a good morning.Thousands of birds,although many more thousands had already left for winter.
    so a few pics-
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    The results of a drunken Russian captain-
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    Next-the birds.​
     
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  25. latrobe
    Original Member

    latrobe Silver Member

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    These were taken on a point and shoot Sony camera from a lurching zodiac so I felt pretty good.Here are the birds-
    [​IMG]
    This fellow had his eye on the camera.
    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After lunch it was once again my nanny nap as the ship heads for Tromso.Boy am I sleeping well.Tonight is the Captain's farewell dinner and we are on the table of the ship's Hotel Director and the Archeologist along with 2 USAAF colonels and their 14 year old son.An interesting conversation all around.
    Dinner was crab timbale,foie gras,beef wellington with a Sancerre and Sangiovese to wash them down.Finished off in the bar for some final post dinner drinks.Tomorrow is the end of this adventure when we arrive in Tromso.
    That next.​
     
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