Captain – Maarten van der Duijn Schouten
Expedition Leader – Andreas Umbreit
Guides Birgit Lutz & Ulrike Wierer
First Mate – Paulien Klompmaker
Second Mate – Alwin Wuffen + Ludo
Chef – Sascha Huhn
Hotelmanager – Alexandra Renes
Service – Julia Wellner
Service – Sylvie Heerdt
16th August 2017 - Isfjorden: Longyearbyen
Position: 78°13,7’ N 015°36,4’ E
Temperature 5°C, rain
Longyearbyen! Most of us arrive at one o´clock in the afternoon in the main settlement of Spitsbergen, Longyearbyen. About 2000 people are living in this outpost of civilization. The history of Longyearbyen started with coal mining in the early 20th century. Today it is more and more a destination for tourists.
At the airport we are picked up by our expedition leader Andreas and guide Ulrike, and we drive together to the Antigua, anchoring in the harbour of Longyearbyen. We embark the barkentine, move into our cabins and get to meet Captain Maarten and the crew for a short introduction and safety briefing.
At 17.30 we leave the harbour and expedition leader Andreas gives us a first information on the history of Spitsbergen, in Isfjorden on open deck. We see a lot of kittiwakes (drieteenmeeuwen), northern fulmars (noordse stormvogels) and even puffins (papegaaiduikers) flying by.
Going out Isfjorden we turn southwards – we will circumnavigate Spitsbergen anti-clockwise, as there is a lot of wind coming from the North, informs the Captain.
Indeed, we feel the wind, the high waves and the rolling of the ship very soon after leaving the harbour and some of us do not get a lot of sleep this night, but make friends with the ceramics in their cabins. ☺
17th August - Bellsund: Van Keulenfjorden - Van Keulenhamna - Nathorstbreen
We have reached the entrance of Van Keulenfjord, casting anchor in the small Van Keulenhamna, which gives the ANTIGUA (and us) some shelter against the still strong northerly wind. It is partly cloudy, but with a good share of sun spots illuminating the scenery for our very first Zodiac landing on this trip, after the zodiac instruction by the captain. A very gentle beach with fine pebbles and almost no swell makes it an easy first landing.
Having a look at some last flowering plants on the way up, we scramble a rocky hill as the highest point of the small peninsula sticking out into the sea. Fascinating is the geology here with its almost upright folded sediment layers as an impressive feature of the surrounding landscape, creating interesting rock structures also to be crossed on our way.
We find some coral fossils and on the ponds under the hill, there are a number of barnacle geese (brandgansen), three red-throated divers (roodkeelduikers) and in between some reindeer grazing on the green tundra. Close to the beach, we come across the first signals of civilisation: garbage, washed ashore and then partly blown higher up. We collect what we can find of it, participating in the „Clean up Svalbard“ project.
During lunch, the ANTIGUA moves further into Van Keulenfjord and we set even some sails a bit later, enjoying for the first time the elegant, almost quiet movement of the ship without motoring.
Our afternoon destination after coffee and cake is the old moraine of Nathorstbreen (breen = glacier), dating back to an earlier surge of this glacier, which has just finished its next (but not so far out) surge of the last years, with the front completely shattered by this recent fast advance.
We cross the old moraine with its chaotic mix of hills and ponds, crossing the low glacier stream valley on the land side of the moraine with some unexpected green tundra and grazing reindeers following the barren moraine scenery.
Here we split first time into „easy hikers“ and „fast hikers“ - the latter going a bit further, but in the end everybody experiencing the same basic mix of moraine chaos, gentle green tundra with reindeers, the view onto the broken ice masses of Nathorstbreen and two ivory gulls (ivoormeeuwen) sighted repeatedly along the shore.
Back on board, it is already dinner time and the ANTIGUA motors against the strong wind to Van Keulenhamna, where we had been already in the morning, to spend the night there, instead of fighting against the heavy swell along the west coast. The wind has picked up once more, so we even need to cast the second anchor to stay at our anchoring site.
18th August - Seaday – on the way to the South Cape
We all used the quiet night at anchor to catch up with sleep, and we wake up again in wind and under a cloudy sky. Andreas and Captain Maarten warn us after breakfast, to make all our cabins seafast and to secure our belongings, as we will now go out of Bellsund and towards the South – and we expect the same waves and the same swell as when we went towards Bellsund.
Fortunately, the forecast this time is not right! We find much better conditions than we thought. We set sails and sail with nice movements towards the South.
Northern Fulmars (noordse stormvogels) continue flying around our ship and we try to catch them with our cameras.
It is a great sailing day, and we enjoy the wind and the sea!
19th August - Grunnvågbukta
A sunny morning with very little wind awaited us while we circled the Sørkappøya (South Cape Island) from west to east, then anchoring in Grunnvågbukta for our morning hike. It was surprisingly warm while we followed the gently swung bay partly on the beach, partly on the lowland behind it with its series of old beach walls and some very old whale bones.
In the end, after a futile attempt of crossing a swamp, we explored the rock formations on Kikutodden (Lookout Promontory) before being picked up (with some difficulties due to very shallow water with stones) back to the ship.
While eating, the ANTIGUA was heading already for Isbukta – but then, 3 fin whales (gewone vinvissen) gave reason for some erratic circling in southernmost Storfjord, trying to watch these mighty sea mammals at close hold. It took until 17:30, until we reached Isbukta, so the originally planned landing was turned into a glacier cruise with the ship, following the icy semicircle of the bay in a respectful distance to its glacier fronts – and we were lucky enough to witness even a nice calving.
Having left Isbukta and heading northeast, fin whales appeared again repeatedly, feeding partly near the ship - first in still great evening light, providing a great atmosphere and perfect lighting for our numerous photographers. Our most enduring whale watchers stayed out on deck until almost midnight.
20th August - Freemansund, Edgeøya, Isbjørnodden: 3 Polar Bears ☺
Landing on Sundneset
In the morning we wake up to a clear sky and some waves, west of Edgeøya. Our planned landing in the morning in Diskobukta turns out to be impossible, due to waves and wind, so Andreas decides to head for Freemansundet to search for polar bears.
We enjoy the morning, sitting outside in the sunshine until the wind picks up again.
And indeed, at eleven o´clock, Captain Maarten spots the first polar bear, in approximately five kilometer distance, close to Isbjørnodden. The bear walks along the beach as we approach and is then kind enough to lay down on a tundra terasse, where we can watch him – and he can watch us. But we do not do him the favour to land here, of course.
We watch the bear for a while and leave then further eastwards into Freemansundet, where after only few minutes Max spots another bear just laying at the beach! So we stop again and observe this bear, another well fed adult. We do not interest him too much, as he is even yawning while looking at us and not moving.
After these two sightings we continue a bit more into Freemansund and turn then around, heading towards Sundneset, at the northern entrance of Freemansund, at Barentsøya. On the way back we observe again the two bears which have not moved since we left them a while ago. And shortly before we reach our landing site on Sundneset, we discover another bear, this time the so called Ursus alpinus, as it is climbing high up in the slope, close to a bird cliff.
We observe this sight a while, watching the bear climbing the steep hill up and down, and then continue to our landing site.
On Sundneset we land and stay together in one group, walking a loop across the tundra. We find some very old whale bones far inland, Andreas explains phenomenons like solifluction, we stand in a whole forest of polar willows and see also some cottongras, reason enough for some of us to lay down.
We climb a hill and sit down in the wind shade, for 5 minutes of silence, to enjoy the noises of wind, birds and water. After this beautiful loop across the tundra landscape we return to the ship.
Our plan is now, to go towards Negribreen, a big glacier front at the east coast of Spitsbergen. But as we approach our next anchoring site, we discover ice! Ice in Heleysundet and Ormholet, the narrow street between Barentsøya and Spitsbergen.
This street always shows very fast currents of up to 11 knots, and combined with big ice chunks this current is not a good surrounding for our Antigua. So the decision has to be made: We have to turn around and go northwards on the eastern coast of Barentsøya! And so we head again for Freemansund, for Kapp Waldburg, to explore the kittiwake colony (drieteenmeeuwen) in the morning.
21st August - Freemansund: Kapp Waldburg
Who thought to wake up in northern Storfjord, near the announced Negribreen, experienced a surprise: we were anchoring in a sunny eastern Freemansund between Freemanbreen and Kapp Waldburg under the slopes of Büdelfjellet, setting out for a walk into a bird canyon, which allowed us to approach probably thousands of Kittiwake nests in the rock face, some of them just a few metres from our faces or cameras, underlined by the cries from thousands of birds and a clear „guano“ smell in the air.
As a bonus, a number of – mostly young – foxes had no inhibitions to display their activities to us, including catching and eating a kittiwake young. So the grazing reindeer below the canyon had strong competitors for our attention.
Back on the ship, a bearded seal resting on an ice flake was circled by ANTIGUA at fairly close hold, with all cameras clicking. As a consequence of the nightly turn around off western Heleysund due to too risky ice concitions, we had to steam now northwards again on the east side of Barentsøya – in a wide swing eastwards to get around the ice field, of which we nevertheless passed its outermost floes, while Andreas lectured on the early history of Spitsbergen. Up we moved through the southern part of Hinlopen Street, aiming for Wahlbergøya as our anchorage for the remaining night.
22nd August - Hinlopenstreet: Walrusses on Wahlbergøya / Glacierwalk on Tommelbreen / Cruising Alkefjellet
In the morning we arrive at a very windy Wahlbergøya, where some walruses are laying on the beach. We go on land and approach them very slowly, and get a good view on the animals resting on the beach, after supposedly having eaten 70kg of mussels. Lots to digest, and so they are not moving a lot. We see the impressive tusks and the wounds in their necks.
After this sighting we walk a round across the island in one group and find a slaughering place – polar bear skulls and the bones of wales, seals and rendier. Probably this was a place used by a trapper in former times.
After this windy landing we continue northwards in the Hinlopenstreet and stop in front of Tommelbreen, a big, flat glacier. We land on a side moraine and approach the glacier altogether, and we are lucky: We succeed in stepping on the glacier and we can even do a little hike on it.
We see the work of the meltwater that is digging little canyons into the ice, hear the cracking of the little ice crystals and see the clear ice under our feet. We spread out far across the ice for some silent minutes, with our three guards around us.
And the day is not over yet: After dinner we have arrived at Alkefjellet, a huge bird cliff, where 60.000 breeding pairs nest. We see Brünnich´s guillemots (kortbekzeekoeten), kittiwakes (drieteenmeeuwen), glaucous gulls (groote burgemeesters). The young guillemots have just begun to jump down the cliff and swim in the sea, accompanied by their fathers. We hear their loud voices and see the fathers busy to protect them from attacking gulls. While we are observing this, we discover in the distance also a fin whale.
And then Maarten spots a fox family, seven in total! The foxes play and run along the cliff, jumping up and down and searching for some chicks or eggs. We follow them with the ship along the cliff, a very special sight.
At ten in the evening we leave Alkefjellet, heading further to the North.
But then Sascha makes one of his great discoveries: He spots a seal which looks very different from all common known seals in Spitsbergen, resting on an iceflow – and Birgit identifies it as a hooded seal (klapmuts)! This is quite a sensation, as nobody of us has ever seen a hooded seal in Spitsbergen! They are common in Greenland, but not here in Spitsbergen. Unfortunately it is very nervous and slips soon into the water. But we have some good pictures of it, and we are sure it was a hooded seal. Great!
23rd August - Nordaustlandet: Murchisonfjord: Sørvika – Icecap View
Sørvika – Citizen Science Project / Kinnvika / Northernmost point
We wake up in the morning in the southern bay of Murchisonfjord, at Sørvika. We go for a hike in one group up the mountain and reach a point where we can nicely see over the icecap, the second biggest icecap in the northern hemisphere (after Greenland). We feel the cold wind coming from this enourmous glacier cap and enjoy the view for a while, before returning altogether to the ship.
Birgit suggests then to do a Citizen Science Project for the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven (the German Polar Institute), which she has initiated in 2016. It is: Collecting data about anthropogenic marine litter in Spitsbergen.
Projects like this are growing in the last years – tourist ships that go to far away corners of the world are used by scientists for collecting data of these areas, which are otherwise hard to reach – or only with big logistic and financial effort. The data in this project all goes to LITTERBASE, a map in which the single collections are listed. Like this, there is hope to find out where all the plastic garbage in our oceans ends, and also, where the biggest sources are. The outcomes of LITTERBASE 2016 support for example the thesis, that by now there is a sixth garbage gyre in our oceans – in the Arctic.
So we go on land and collect all garbage in the same area that Birgit has cleaned with the Antigua already in 2016. The garbage we find is therefore from the last 14 months. We separate different categories (fishery, plastic packaging, plastic articles) and count every single piece, resulting in a total of 6645 items weighing 27,7 kg. (Result in 2016: 41 kg, after 10 months after the first cleaning without counting in 2015).
In the evening we go for a landing at Kinnvika, at the northern coast of Murchisonfjord, where in the Geophysical Year of 1956/57 a Swedish-Finish expedition had built a station of which we still can see the buildings – and even enter them. In a cold wind we walk around the houses, imagining to live here for one winter.
After that we walk a round with Birgit over the higher beachwall and she shows us a memorial for one of the participants of the Nobile Expedition of 1928. The memorial plate was built in 1978, 50 years after the expedition, but the expedition itself is not mentioned on it – because Nobile at the time was still a persona non grata in Italy. Reason: After the crash of the airship Italia onto the ice, several rescue expeditions searched for the party (also Sjef van Dongen, who left with his dogs from Barentsburg).
A first rescue plane landed on the ice. The pilot could take only one person with him, and insisted to take Nobile. Because he was injured, because he was light, and surely because the pilot would earn a lot of fame, by saving the General. Nobile agreed, as he was willing to coordinate the further rescue operation from the icebreaker Krassin, where they were supposed to fly to. This step though destroyed Nobiles further life and career: as he was accused of leaving his men behind in the ice, and saving himself as first instead of at last. Birgit explains this piece of history in front of the memorial plate, while the wind is dying and even the sun is coming out a bit.
We make our way back to the ship in wonderful arctic evening light, beside some icebergs in the water and many kittiwakes.
On the ship a surprise is waiting for us: Sascha and the hotel team have prepared a buffet with so much delicious food on it that there is almost not enough space for it on the table!
We enjoy this extra treat a lot. And as a dessert we all get a small present from Birgit and the Alfred Wegener Institute: a blue bag (not plastic!), as a litte thankyou for our data collection in the afternoon.
And the day is not over yet: Late in the evening we reach the most northerly point of our voyage: 80°08 N 016°09 E! The Captain blasts the ship´s horn and we all get a drankje to celebrate this event. And after that we enjoy the evening sun, which is of an absolute stunning beauty tonight. What a day!
24th August - Wijdefjord: Mosselbukta (Polhem)
After the weather report, we should have had a strong southerly wind when starting our day with breakfast on the anchoring ANTIGUA in Mosselbukta, but instead, it was warm, windstill and sunny – perfect conditions for our very leasurely morning stroll.
We landed at the local trapper cabin and had a look at it, then strolling on (with some garbage collection) towards the ruin of the wintering station «Polhem“ of Nordenskiöld and his intended North Pole expedition of 1872/73, completing this landing with almost 20 minutes of silence.
For the afternoon, Andreas planned a landing in Vassfarbukta a bit further south in Wijdefjord, but the strong southerly wind, which hit us as soon as we left Mosselbukta, made it uncertain, whether any landing would be possible regarding swell, right until we anchored. But with these wind conditions, not much other chances for an afternoon landing were left. It turned out that luck was on our side, though with a bit of spray water during the Zodiac transfers. In view of the strong wind, choppy boat ride and the announced longer hike in mountainous terrain with little chances for wildlife, 9 of us decided to stay on the ship. For the other 20, this was the second longer hike a bit more into the mountains on this cruise.
While so far on most landings of this cruise, the „long hikers“ had to give in more to the taste of the „leisure hikers», here (and yesterday morning), the challenge was more on the side of the „easy hikers“ - with more up and down and more stones, while the top height was only 119m (compared to 181m yestrday morning) – but with a more spectacular top view.
Following the stumbling over a stone and fall of one, 7 decided to stop just about 20m under the top together with Ulrike, while the other 13 did also the last bit to the top, rewarded by the phantastic rocky scenery with the surrounding many lakes, the fjord with ANTIGUA deep under us and on the other side a glimpse onto the inland ice of Valhallfonna. Inspite of walking down carefully with our bruised participant, the descent down to the beach took just 45 minutes.
Under sails, ANTIGUA headed northwest, circling Gråhuken with a sighting of a fin whale and a minkey whale and then moving into Woodfjord and Liefdefjord with Hornbækpollen as our intended anchorage for the remaining night – surprisingly with almost no wind here, contrary to what we had experienced in neighbouring Wijdefjord just a few hours before.
25th August - Woodfjord: Liefdefjord: Hornbækpollen / Monacobreen / Gråhuken: Ritterhytta
We wake up in Hornbækpollen, a very small and intimate bay in Liefdefjord, in which only small ships like Antigua can anchor. For the first time we divide into two groups from the beginning of the landing. The crazy mountaingoats go with Andreas uphill, to enjoy a bright view on Idabreen, the glacier behind the high moraine which is surrounding Hornbækpollen.
The easy hikers go with Birgit a lower round. First we enjoy the view onto Monacobreen, the big glacier at the end of Liefdefjord, a wonderful view, surrounded by the Spitse bergen which inspired Willem Barentsz to name this island Spitsbergen in the 16th century. We go then down to sealevel and have a closer look at some small icebergs resting in the little bay in front of. We then find some saxifraga growing on the moraine (steenbreek) and even some still flowering moss campion (stengellose silene). We enjoy our time to take pictures and soak in the scenery.
In the afternoon we go into Liefdefjord, towards Monacobreen. We go close to the glacier front and whitness several big calvings. Birgit explains, that the glacier used to have one front until 2 years ago, but with the ice masses retreating is now divided by a mountain. It is impressive to see how much the glacier has retreated in this short time. Nevertheless it is a breathtaking view. Maarten fishes some ice out the water and Birgit suggests a swim, which is highly appreciated by four of us. So we witness three female humans and one male dipping happily in the ice cold water, one of the most joyful sightings of the whole voyage ☺!
After that we cruise between some bigger icebergs and then we leave the glacier, heading for Lernerøyane, where we hope to spot some bears. But we do not find any, unfortunately.
So we head out the Liefdefjord into Woodfjord and go to Gråhuken, where in 1936 austrian Christiane Ritter wintered with her husband and another trapper. We see the hut, standing in a quite windy and lonely place and wonder how and why two or three people can decide to winter here, in the middle of a lonely nothing. We can open the hut and go into it, finding furniture and pictures from the time of Christiane Ritter. Birgit and Andreas tell a bit about the story of Christiane Ritter, and after this landing in soft evening light we return to the Antigua.
The soft light is accompanying us until late in the evening, and the bar is heavily frequented until late in the night.
26th August - Arlaneset / Raudfjord: polar bear mother and cub
In the morning we land on Arlaneset, a landspit on the eastern arm of Raudfjord. We split into two groups, and the long hikers go climb the mountain that is overlooking the bay.
The easy hikers stay lower and follow a beachwall around the landspit. We find remains of a hut, probably an old trapper hut, some scattered bones of walrus and an entire walrus skull - and also one long bone of which we cannot find out its origin. It seems to be ivory, but it has a different form than walrus teeth. On the way back we follow a higher beachwall and even find one arctic poppy.
The long hikers reach the top and suggest to the easy hikers to jump in the water and swim to some ice flows, all for scenic reasons. But somehow the easy hikers refuse. ☺
In the afternoon we go into Raudfjord, where we want to land in the western branch. But going into the fjord we hear from another ship about a bear in the eastern branch – and so we immediately turn into the other branch of Rauddfjord. We search and search and Birgit discovers the mother and cub walking in the slope towards north.
As we cannot go very close to land with the Antigua, we lower two zodiacs, and Birgit and Alwin take us closer to land, to get a better view on the bears. The cub is of this year, and followint playfully his mother, once even climbing on her. But then they lay down and end the show for us.
Danskøya: polar bears
Scheibukta: polar bear hunting a reindeer and feeding on a walrus!
Wind and snowy rain waits for us as we wake up North of Smeerenburg, where Andreas planned to go on land and hike towards the historic site of Smeerenburg. Instead we go with the ship directly to the site and land there. We see the ovens and Andreas explains the whaling, that had taken place there.
Smeerenburg was one of the biggest stations in the archipelago; eight trading companies from different dutch towns had at least one double blubber oven with two houses close to the shore line. In the heydays in 1620 were 200 men working at the same time in Smeerenburg. Standing there in the cold wind we get a nice impression, how hard the whaler´s life once must have been.
Some walrus are laying on the beach and we approach them with Andreas and Birgit quietly and slowly. We get quite a nice view on the animals.
After that we go back to the landing site and a first zodiac takes some of us back to the ship, while the others go with Birgit and Andreas a loop around the tundra. We find some of the dutch graves and see how the wood of the coffins comes to the surface, then we go to the beach, where we enjoy some sunshine and a beautiful light over sand and rocks, and then we even see a huge, complete rainbow over Smeerenburg.
Back on board we head further South, but we are soon stopped by two bears: they are lying lazy on the beach as they just had fed on a dead sperm whale washed onto the shore. We watch them for a while before we continue to Scheibukta.
Not far from our landing site Sascha discovers another bear! And this time it is a perfect action bear: First it is laying on the beach, but then it decides to hunt a reindeer! This is a very rare sight, and indeed, the bear does not have success. He then finds the carcass of a walruss and starts feeding on it, dragging the heavy skin up the hill.
Captain Maarten succeeds in laying the Antigua very close to the beach and very stable, perfect conditions for photographers!
The bear however is laying to close for comfort at our planned landing site and so we continue towards Magdalenefjord.
We enjoy a quiet dinner in the secluded fjord and the view on Waggonwaybreen, and while we are there an enourmous piece of ice is calving off, causing huge waves that splash at the steep coastlines on both sides of the bay. In golden evening light we go out of Magdalenefjord, direction south.
We see the stunning glacier landscape, but Andreas shows us two pictures – one, that he took in 2015 standing on the landspit Gravneset, and one from 1873, from an expedition of the british explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith. These pictures illustrate very well, how far the glaciers in Magdalenefjord – and not only there – have since then retreated.
Change of plan – our running gag continued also today: while Andreas had announced a landing in (!!!) a glacier front for this morning, the Lilliehöökbreen turned out to be inaccessible, certainly for a zodiac landing, due to enormous masses of calved-off ice filling the whole wide bay in front of its ice walls. So during breakfast, we relocated to nearby Signehamna – for a hike to the sparse remains of a german WWII weather station and then exploring the surroundings in our two groups „easy hikers“ and „long hikers“.
After the return to the ship for lunch, the ANTIGUA went into the ice-covered glacier bay again for a short sightseeing, as not all had seen this spectacular view before breakfast.
Then, we sailed down Krossfjord, crossed Kongsfjord and were dropped some kilometres west of Ny Ålesund, approaching this biggest research base in the high arctic on foot, passing a number of high tech research facilities on the way, like the geodetic station on Brandalspynten, which uses far away cosmic object as references for measuring minute movements on Earth\s surface.
Dinner was waiting on the ANTIGUA, which had moored in the meantime, but at 21:00, Andreas offered a guided tour through Ny Ålesund and then out to the anchoring mast of the two airships NORGE and ITALIA, which started from here on their arctic flights in 1926/28, the ITALIA flight ending in the dramatic crash on the arctic ice north of Spitsbergen. Sjef van Dongen, based in Barentsburg, was asked to assist in the rescue due to his dog sledging competence, and visited Ny Ålesund, too, on his transfer to the north coast of Spitsbergen, where he then was dropped together with Sora on Chermside island.
As we stayed in Ny Ålesund over night on the pier, all could explore the tiny settlement on their own during the evening. The shop did not want to open extra for us in the evening, but the nice little local museum turned out to be open permanently now in the late season.
Eidembukta: Barbecue ☺ !
In the morning we wake up, sailing through the Forlandsund, the street between the Prins Karls Forland and the main island of Spitsbergen. We anchor in Engelskbukta and go on land, where we split up in two groups. While the easy hikers still stand at the beach, a very curious harbour seal approaches our landing site. It looks at us several times and we can even hear it breathing. When Maarten arrives with the zodiac, it follows the small boat to the ship. What a wonderful, peaceful start into the day!
There are several graves of british whalers, at which we look first, one is inserted in a blubber oven, on of the remains of the whaling times in this bay.
The long hikers then hike with Andreas on Bjørvikfjellet, a very nice peak overlooking Engelskbukta. They get to the summit within 2 hours.
The easy hikers stay with Birgit and Ulrike a bit lower, but also go up the mountain, reaching the highest point of the easy hikes of this trip. We meet reindeers with impressive antlers on the way, and some of us might have by now approximately 4000 pictures of reindeers ☺.
We reach a nice view point and sit down, and this time we get silent without Birgit needs to tell it. We sit there and overlook the Comfortlessbreen, the pointy peaks of Prins Karls Forland and the Forlandsund, but we see also some clouds coming in.
The descent then is a lot faster than the way up, and at 12.15 we are back at our landing site. Birgit then goes with the zodiac to catch the long hikers on the beach a little bit further out the bay, while the Antigua is already heaving the anchor.
As we leave Engelskbukta, the bay is closed in clouds, and also the peaks of Prins Karls Forland are now more and more in clouds.
We sail south through the Forlandsund and meet some fin whales, that dive up right beside the ship! We observe them for a while and move then on towards Eidembukta.
Birgit then holds her lecture about the Andrée expedition, the famous expedition that disappeared in 1897 – from Smeerenburg we had had a view over to Virgohamna on Danskøya, from where the expedition started.
In Eidembukta the kitchen team has another surprise for us: A barbecue on board!
We enjoy the steaks and sticks and all the delicacies the team has created, a lot.
Maarten and Andreas hold speeches and let us look back on the voyage behind us, with whales, foxes, bears and a lot of wind... We do a group picture and stand stand outside around the barbecue and enjoy the arctic evening, where it is already getting considerably „darker“ than in the beginning of our voyage... it is a nice way to end the voyage, but it is not over yet!
Andreas was too early yesterday evening with stating that we had practically no fog on this cruise – this morning, it was both foggy and rainy, while we steamed to the pier of Barentsburg, after having dropped Birgit in the very early morning in Longyearbyen. During his usual breakfast speech, Andreas outlined the history of Barentsburg, including a reference to Sjef van Dongen, who lived here before setting out on his rescue tour for the Nobile expedition. Then, we were free to explore Barentsburg individually for almost 3 hours until lunch. Quite a contrast to mostly nature on our cruise, so far, but the russian presence is also a unique aspect of Spitsbergen.
Originally, a final wilderness landing was planned in Grønfjord for the afternoon but in view of the ugly weather with very poor visibility, Andreas chose Colesbukta, instead, the former port of the russian mining community Grumant – both given up since about 50 years and falling gradually in ruins. Luckily, the fog had lifted in the mean time a bit and the drizzle had become less. So we set out for «Urban exploring» in the high arctic, with masses of touching details, telling of times gone, and how nature conquers graudually back such short human intermezzos.
Last time boarding ANTIGUA from the zodiacs, last time taking off the life vests and confirming return on the landing list, then last evening dinner.
At 22:30, we moored at the pier in Longyearbyen – with the sun breaking through the clouds in the north for a phantastic sunset.
31st August 2017 - Longyearbyen
Time to say good-bye: We are back in Longyearbyen.
Leaving the cozy Antigua, our home for the last two weeks, is not easy, but the time has come: We say good-bye to crew and new friends, having already many new plans in our minds!
This logbook was written in the arctic waters of Spitsbergen
by Andreas Umbreit und Birgit Lutz.
Longyearbyen, the 31stth of August 2017
What value would life have, without its dreams?
The SV Antigua will continue sailing in the waters of Spitsbergen.
The ships of the Tallship Company Fleet, Mare Frisium, Artemis, Elisabeth and Atlantis
sail in the Northern and Baltic Sea and to the Canary Islands.
Further informations: Askja Reizen BV
Izaak Evertslaan 1
6814 JH Arnhem
Tallship Company, Zevenhuizen 52, NL-8801 AW Franeker Tel +31 (0) 517 342 810, email@example.com