July/August 12

AROUND SPITSBERGEN 28 JULY – 12 AUGUST 2012

Our expedition on Noorderlicht is coming to an end leaving us with pleasant memories of all the places we have been on this wonderful ship with our fellow passengers, of 9 nationalities, our happy hard-working captain and crew, Ted, Svenja,Nina and Anna, and our tour leader, Robin.

We have circumnavigated Spitsbergen counter-clockwise, crossed the 800 parallel, and along the way Ted & Robin have taken us to places where we can experience the different aspects of Spitsbergen, its nature and cultural legacy. We visited bird colonies where thousands of guillemot perched on sea cliff ledges; old trapper’s huts; whaling stations and sites of old mines. After each zodiac landing and walk across the wet and dry tundra we returned to the ship where a wonderful variety of cakes, bread and meals were prepared by Anna.

Our crew encouraged us to take the helm and to hoist the sails so we could fully enjoy the experience of sailing on this 100 year old schooner. A short zodiac trip around the ship when all the sails were raised let us see how wonderful Noorderlicht looks from other ships.

For any visitor to Spitsbergen the wildlife is top of the list to experience and we have been very fortunate to see beluga and fin whales along the way and around 15 humpback whales in Hinlopenstretet where Ted has not seen them before – a magical experience as they surfaced around the ship. We saw walrus hauled out on beaches before they lumbered into the water to swim gracefully away. But the most special sightings were of the Polar Bears. These elusive animals kept us in suspense as we saw one or two in the distance and each day we hoped for a closer encounter to make our expedition complete. We saw spectacular landscapes of mountains and glaciers and tundra where the arctic flora was in its last stage of flowering before the frosts return and the midnight sun is over.

As we came towards the end of our expedition our dream of seeing Polar Bear was fading away. Then finally the call came and the ship's bell rang as Renata spotted an 'Ice Bear' in the distance lying on an ice flow close to a seal. We were sailing in front of the Kongsbreen glacier near Ny Alesund and as the glacier calved ice and the waves spread out, our Ice Bear gave us a once-in-a-lifetime experience we will not forget. The tagged bear bidded her time relaxing on the flow until she picked up the scent of the seal and swam silently between the flows to catch and kill the unsuspecting ring seal. We watched enthralled as she dragged her kill away from us until reluctantly we sailed away and left her to her meal. Robin could relax for the rest of the trip and enjoy a well earned beer with Ted in Ny Alesund's pub!

We go home with unforgettable memories of Noorderlicht and Spitsbergen to share with our families and friends.

Anne Leaney
12 August 2012


Landings:
Alkhornet
Bamsebu
Recherche Glacier
Gashamna
Kapp Lee
Sundneset
Heleysundet
Krossoya
Birgerbukta
Smeerenburg
Magdalenafjord
Camp Mansfield
Ny Alesund
Selvagen
Barentsburg

Flora and Fauna seen:

Brunnich's Guillemots
Arctic Terns
Arctic Skuas
Long Tailed Skuas
Svarlbard Reindeer
Kittiwakes
Puffins
Beluga Whales
Little Auks
Fin Whales
Walrus
Arctic Fox
Humpback Whales
Eider Ducks
Barnacle Geese
Glaucous Gulls
Ivory Gull
Fulmars
Red Throated Diver
Bearded Seals
Ring Seals
Ptarmigan
Polar Bears

Polar Willow
Arctic Mouse-ear
Moss Campion
Svarlbard Poppy
Purple Saxifrage
Spider Plant
Arctic Bell Heather
Boreal Jacob`s Ladder
Arctic cottongrass
Lichens and mosses
Funghi


Our recent North-West Spitsbergen trip has been wonderful. The weather has been favorable for excellent sailing and Spitsbergen’s wildlife and mountainous scenery have shown us their best looks.
An impression by one of our guests. Jeroen, mate.

Noorderlicht to Svalbard – a personal account

The Noorderlicht is a 46metre-converted lightship which has been beautifully and lovingly rebuilt. We were not sure what to expect when we booked to go on a trip to the Arctic but were amazed and humbled by the experience.
We hoped to see a polar bear and saw 15! On one occasion two Mother bears each with a cub shared a feast of a walrus carcass, which had washed up on a beach.
We also witnessed the rare and beautiful Ivory Gull, and also Puffins, Guillemots, little Auks, Kitty hawks and a plethora of other birdlife.
The scenery was breath taking and even the low mist and rain just made for more interesting photo opportunities. Sunny days added the dimensions of color, reflections and a glimmer of warmth!
Helping to sail and rig the ship was physically demanding (proper sails and ropes) but fun and exciting. Tacking into Longyearbyen harbour at the end of the trip was stimulating and must have looked very impressive from the shore as the ship leaned at 35 degrees doing ten knots under sail power.
The knowledge imparted by the guide Robin Buzzard was encyclopedic and made the history of Svalbard relevant to today’s concerns regarding climate change and species survival.
Svalbard is one of the last truly wild places on Earth and it was an honor and a privilege to have visited and witnessed nature in her raw state.

Larry and Alison Benjamin 1/7/12
Svalbard

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