Arctic Cruise Adventure Trip Log ( 17 - 31 Jul, 2017) - Thursday, Jul 20

Thursday July 20: Torellneset Walrus & Alkefjellet Bird Cliffs
January 2018

This morning we awake to calm seas and heavy fog; guillemots, puffins and other seabirds are shrouded in mist as they move purposefully by the ship. Thankfully, as we finish with breakfast, the foggy curtain begins to rise, revealing the mountainous hills of Spitsbergen. We marvel at the scenery, where those vigilantly looking for wildlife are rewarded with sightings of bearded seal, ringed seal, and hundreds of seabirds. We enjoy this stunning beauty as the ship drops anchor, donning our A&K parkas while the expedition staff prepares the zodiacs for our first landing on the rocky spit of Wahlenbergøya. Strong winds make for a boisterous ride to shore, though when we first step onto the cobble beach we are met with light winds, clear skies, and an excellent view of nearly three dozen walrus hauled out nearby!

Walrus have historically been hunted throughout the Arctic, and these magnificent creatures are thus understandably wary of our presence. Huge tusked heads turn our way as the animals consider our intentions, though we are quiet and respectful and, luckily, most animals keep to the beach. The walrus’ diet is comprised almost exclusively of shellfish, and though very few walrus have been seen actually foraging in the wild, we know they must eat a tremendous amount of food each day to survive. Both males and females have tusks, though our naturalists identify some of the largest individuals as bulls.

This afternoon, a slow cruise through Hinlopen Strait brings us to the jagged and rocky basalt cliffs of Alkefjellet. We once again board the zodiacs, and, buffeted by a gentle swell, approach this thriving colony of over 120,000 small birds known as Brünnich’s guillemot! Mesmerized, we navigate beneath the sea cliffs these birds have carefully chosen as a nesting site, well out of the reaches of fox and bear. In addition to these penguin-like birds, our naturalists point out the black-legged kittiwakes, black guillemots and glaucous gulls that also call these dramatic cliffs home. On-board, our botanist Dagmar holds an engaging lecture on the plants that we are likely to encounter on our venture into the high arctic. After a long and exciting day on the water, we enjoy cocktails and dinner before turning in for the evening.

Click Here to read 'Friday July 21: In Search of Bears'