Wednesday, June 25th and we awoke to a grey wet and rainy day.
We had a wake up call at 7.00 am and the breakfast as usual at 7.30. The ship was positioned off Dollerittnesset / Kopp Lee and we had a landing with a reported sighting of walrus on the beach. We were ready at the gangway at 9.00 in all our wet weather gear and off for a relatively short trip to the beach. We landed near a rocky headland and in between some clumps of ice. It was a rather desolate location, especially in the rain and sleet. A few of us headed inland for a few hundred metres across very a marshy and boggy landscape.
Not far inland we came across a wooden structure that appeared to be a toilet that the wind had blown over onto its side. It was actually a polar bear trip. It would have been baited with meat and a loaded rifle positioned at the back. When the bear put its head through the hole and took the meat, a trip wire would have triggered the rifle and bear was shot in the head.
There were a large number of bones in the area – reindeer antlers, a fox skull, bear femur and walrus bones. In the early days, thousands of walrus were shepherded into a flat area behind the beach and killed for their ivory tusks. There are less and less of their skeletons visible now as the permafrost is melting and the top soil is gradually slipping down from the hills and covering the previous surface of the land. I think that this is called crecipitation.
Along the beach were two walrus that were lying asleep on the sand. We approach to 50 metres from them in small groups, each group taking it in turn for a view. We had to keep downwind and remain very quiet. After a few minutes, we retreated slowly along the beach and back to our zodiacs to return to the ship.
By the time that we were back on the ship for lunch, it was snowing and very cold. In the afternoon, we attempted to sail through a passage north of the island of Edgeoya named Freemansundet, but it was blocked with sea ice and impassable. As we were travelling very slowly, we saw three polar bears on the ice. They were very difficult to see and we needed binoculars to get any sort of decent view of them. The Captain slowed the ship to a crawl and we watched them walk across the ice. One appeared to be a mother with very large cub and the other looked as though it was wearing a tracking collar. This would have been a female it is impossible to fit a collar to the tapered, muscular neck of a male bear. On the other shore we could see a few reindeer grazing on the moss and sparse grass.
Very few people stayed outside in the wet and cold weather, but a few spent some time on the bridge looking out for wildlife. We had an extra talk on photography and then it was time for dinner and an early night.