Svalbard 2015 – Day 6: Wilhelmøya and Sørporten
July 19th start a quarter to 6 as Morten is hammering on the door shouting “Polar bear with two cubs!!” with an enthusiasm he normally reserves only for birds. I sit up in the bed quickly and despite this being the fifth day onboard I still don’t remember there’s not room to sit up in the bunk bed, knocking my head in the bunk above. But I manage to throw some clothes on and get my gear with me outside. The fog is still pretty dense and the mood is eerie, but out there we can see a female and two cubs moving around, unfortunately at some distance from the ship.
As we wait and hope they’ll move closer, we spot two more adult bears in the vicinity of the ship. They seem to be males, which probably explains why the female is so restless.
After a bit of waiting, instead of moving closer the female moves the cubs with her further in on the ice. We decide it’s now ok to launch the zodiacs without putting the cubs at risk, so we can hopefully get closer to one of the males.
After we return to Origo, we try to make our way further into the ice in Bjørnsundet, but it seems too packed for us to get much further. It does provide some good opportunity to practice panning and generally try to shoot the birds passing close around us. Obviously the Fulmar is a loyal companion anywhere we go and comes the closest to the ship.
We decide to cross the south pass of Hinlopen over towards the massive glacier Blåsvellbreen. The sea remains amazingly calm.
As we leave the Wilhelm island, we also gradually leave the fog behind. We pass some bearded seals on the ice.
Approaching Blåsvellbreen the plentiful sea ice that has been such an important contributor to the well being of the polar bears over the winter once again thwarts our plans. It’s still too thick in front of the glacier, and we turn north towards Torellneset.
As we reach the open strait of Hinlopen we’re welcomed by the most fantastic weather and conditions you can imagine in such a rough part of the world. We get to enjoy coffee and biscuits on the aft deck wearing just shirts and indoor clothes for once.
We reach Torellneset around midnight in gorgeous light, and we enter the zodiacs to get closer. Despite being a continuation of the 19th, I’ll try to make a separate post for this.