Our last two days have been very enjoyable days in terms of taking pictures. I’ve taken over 300 with a lot of ‘experimenting’ with settings and trying out different compositions.
We sailed until lunch time yesterday ( Saturday, June 27) and reached our first stop near Bourbonhamna on Recherchefjordan by about 4.00 pm. We thought that we had our landing site identified when we could see a collection of buildings on the shore to Starboard, but this turned out to be a Polish research station. Our real target was on a headland three miles further on. As usual, we sent a staff boat ashore first which was loaded with six people with guns. They scouted to ensure that there weren’t any bears in the area and established a secure perimeter. Then we all went ashore in a series of zodiacs. This was a very photogenic location.
The tundra was very boggy, but it was full of little saxigfragus, yellow flowers and interesting moss. Like a lot of other people, I started with some macro photography and took a few flower photos.
Behind the beach was an old wooden hut with quite a bit of character. Along the water’s edge were a ramshackle cluster of decaying wooden coal wagons. These were dumped here on the basis that if coal was discovered, it could be transported to the shore. Behind the hut were three old graves. Outside the hut was an old grinding wheel and a bunch of interesting rubble. These were all declared historical ruins and we weren’t allowed to walk any closer than 5 metres to them. There were some good scenic views around the little bay.
Then it was back to the ship for a late dinner and afterwards to another short landing at a site nearby with the name of Joseph Bukta. There was a hut with a considerable lean and propped up with a couple of long poles. I suspect that the lean was caused by a combination of wind and subsidence caused by the very boggy tundra. To the right of the hut were piles and piles of Beluga Whale bones. These little whales are white in colour and are fond of small bays where they can scratch their skin on the sand. Hundreds must have been killed here.
Time seemed to fly as we took picture after picture. By now it was 11.30 pm and it was truly as bright as day. When I got back to my cabin, I had to pull the curtain closed to prevent the sun from shining in through the window. At this time of year, the sun never sets at this latitude of about 79 degrees.
It seemed a very short night and this morning (Sunday, June 28) we had a wake up call at 7.30 am and then breakfast at 8.00 am. It was only 1 ½ degrees and quite cool. Fortunately, there wasn’t much of a wind. By the time that we had finished breakfast, we were approaching the little settlement of Ny Alesynd. This tiny town was originally the site of a coal mine, but the mine closed in 1962 after a terrible explosion in which 21 people were killed. It is now a research base in which scientists are monitoring, amongst other things, air quality and pollution. Another ship was at the dock, so we stood off in the harbour and ‘zodiacked’ to the shore. Near the wharf there is a display of the little train that used to be used for hauling coal. There is one main street in the town which is lined with multi coloured buildings, a shop, a hotel and a post office.
This town sets a number of records in terms of its ‘northern-ness’. One of these is that it has the most northerly post office in the world. We all frantically wrote out post cards and put them in the red mail box outside the general store. This store was opened because we were in port. It sold a number of books and souvenirs at quite a high price, but how often do you get to shop at the northern most shop in the world.
At the end of town (marked with a polar bear warning sign) is a road that continues on to an old mast to which zeppelins were once moored. It was form here that Amundsen conducted some explorations and disappeared during a rescue mission somewhere near the North Pole. There is a statue of him looking north near the house in which he used to live.
We had two good hours for looking around. We saw an arctic fox and some cubs that were living underneath one of the houses. As we walked around, we had to run the gauntlet of nesting terns, These birds were nesting on the rocky verges of the town streets and attacked us by swooping at our heads and making a loud clicking noise as we walked along. It was just like being dived bombed by the arctic version of a magpie.
We were back on the ship for lunch and then off again for a zodiac cruise around the area near the Fourteenth of July Glacier in Krossfjorden. We could see a number of bird cliffs and watched Guillemots, Puffins and Kittiwakes breeding. We saw a herd of reindeer along the hills and then travelled along the face of the glacier. It face appeared to be about 20 metres high and it had a front of about 2 kilometres. It is 21 kilometres long.
Tonight we have a BBQ on the deck.