After a short transit and a delicious lunch onboard, all of the zodiacs were lowered as the expedition team prepared for an afternoon zodiac cruise. We spent over two hours exploring the bay, getting a sense of the sheer size of the Lilliehöökbreenglacier, photographing the varying shades of colour and the different ice formations. There were plenty of birds to see including, common eider ducks, king eider, long-tailed ducks, arctic terns, snow bunting and northern fulmars. Many of us experienced true Arctic silence as the zodiac engines were turned off. We could hear the crackle and popping of the ice as the air escapes, and really enjoy the stillness and the reflections of the surrounding peaks. The perfect end to another fantastic expedition day.
About thirty types of bird are found on Spitsbergen, most of which are migratory. The Barents Sea is among the areas in the world with most seabirds, with about 20 million counted during late summer. The most common are little auk, northern fulmar, Brünnich’s guillemot, black guillemot and kittiwake. The Arctic tern has the furthest migration, all the way to Antarctica. Only two songbirds migrate to Spitsbergen to breed: the snow bunting and the northern wheatear. Rock ptarmigan is the only bird to overwinter.
The kayakers enjoyed exceptionally calm paddling conditions during both the morning and the afternoon, taking in the mostly same sights and surroundings from the comfort of their kayaks. They had a close encounter with a ringed seal.
Ringed seals are circumpolar and are found in all seasonally ice-covered seas of the Northern Hemisphere and in certain freshwater lakes. Throughout their range, ringed seals have an affinity for ice-covered waters and are well-adapted to occupying heavily ice-covered areas throughout the fall, winter, and spring by using the stout claws on their foreflippers to maintain breathing holes in the ice. Ringed seals remain in contact with the ice most of the year and normally whelp and nurse pups on the ice in snow-covered lairs (snow caves) in late winter through early spring. The ice and snow caves provide some protection from predators, though polar bears spend much of their time on sea ice hunting ringed seals, which are their primary prey.