Svalbard 2015 – Day 8: Monaco glacier

After breakfast on the eight day of our expedition, I spend most of the day looking trough pictures from the previous two nights. While I do some digital housekeeping the Origo makes its way north along Hinlopen, around Gråhuken and through Woodfjorden into Liefdefjorden and the Monaco glacier.

As we sail into the inner end of the fjord, we see the French cruise ship La Boreal against the Seliger glacier. Normally, huge cruise ships is not what you want to see when taking in grand nature experiences, but in this case the 18 meter tall and 142 meter long luxury cruise ship served as a great measure for the huge scale of the glaciers edge and features. Unfortunately the weather is rather dreary with low clouds hanging a mere 150 or so meters overhead.

The 18m (59ft) tall cruise ship La Boreal in front of the Seliger glacier next to Monaco glacier

The 18m (59ft) tall cruise ship La Boreal in front of the Seliger glacier next to Monaco glacier

As we enter the zodiacs we see the ones from La Boreal returning to the ship.

Zodiacs from La Boreal in front of the glacier. They look like they're right in front of it, but they're actually several hundred meters away

Zodiacs from La Boreal in front of the glacier. They look like they’re right in front of it, but they’re actually several hundred meters away

We have to move carefully, as both glaciers around us are calving regularly, and the inner end of the fjord is filled with ice from this, making movement with small plastic dinghies both slow and somewhat risky.

Dense ice at inner part of the Liefdefjord

Dense ice at inner part of the Liefdefjord

 

The other zodiac in front of Seliger glacier, showing the scale. (It's in the lower left)

The other zodiac in front of Seliger glacier, showing the scale. (It’s in the lower left)

Thankfully a while after we get in the zodiacs, the cloud cover starts to break up a little, but conditions change rapidly from nearly clear to dense clouds.

Engstrømtoppen at 1028m with Emma glacier and August glacier in the foreground

Engstrømtoppen at 1028m with Emma glacier and August glacier in the foreground

 

The main wildlife we see in the area are large flocks of Kitiwakes, some Glauceous gulls, and a number of Arctic Skua or Parasitic Jaegers. Fairly soon we get to see two of the latter showing why they earned the name Parasitic Jaegers. They relentlessly chase a Kittiwake until it gulps up its catch, allowing it to get away as the skuas dive for their prize.

Parasitic Jaegers chasing a Kittiwake, trying to force it to give up its catch.

Parasitic Jaegers chasing a Kittiwake, trying to force it to give up its catch.

As we get closer to the glaciers, the blue ice and the clearer skies give us an amazing backdrop for some of the birds posing on ice.

Glauceous gull against a cave in the glacier

Glauceous gull against a cave in the glacier

 

Kittiwakes in front of a cave in the Seliger glacier

Kittiwakes in front of a cave in the Seliger glacier

Glauceous gull against the blue ice of the Monaco glacier

Glauceous gull against the blue ice of the Monaco glacier

 

Northern Fulmar against the blue ice of Monaco glacier

Northern Fulmar against the blue ice of Monaco glacier

Regularly we would see the glaciers calving, unfortunately the stills I took don’t really do the spectacle justice. I tried putting some of the handheld shots together as a video and while it’s far from perfect, it gives some idea on what’s going on.

I also tried to make a few stitched panorama to show the length of these glaciers. They don’t really do them justice.

Panorama of the Monaco glacier at Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Panorama of the Monaco and Seliger glacier

 

Roland set up on Nyholmen, shooting towards Seliger glacier in the middle and Monaco glacier to the left

Roland set up on Nyholmen, shooting towards Seliger glacier in the middle and Monaco glacier to the left

While we were ashore on Nyholmen to take some landscape shots with tripods and solid ground underfoot, we inadvertently startled a Common Eider that was on a nest there. To allow her to quickly return to the nest before the eggs got cold, we had to scramble to leave the islet. Thankfully she was back on the nest nearly before we were back in the zodiac.

While at Nyholmen we startled a Common Eider female on a nest. We hurried off the islet and the female returned immediately

While at Nyholmen we startled a Common Eider female on a nest. We hurried off the islet and the female returned immediately

The Monaco glacier

The Monaco glacier

As we leave, the clouds roll in again.

Engstrømtoppen at 1028m with Emma glacier and August glacier in the foreground

Engstrømtoppen at 1028m with Emma glacier and August glacier in the foreground

After getting back on board we’re served dinner, and afterwards I try to get some sleep.

Travelroute for July 21. (black line)

Travelroute for July 21. (black line)

 

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  1. November 23, 2015

    […] Svalbard 2015 – Day 8: Monaco glacier […]

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