06-04 Pack ice

On the look out for polar bears

4th.June: Day in the pack ice

Date: 04.06.2023
Position: 79°09.6’N / 008°12.1’E
Wind: NW 3
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: -2

After a couple of days of full activities, we came to search for the pack ice. The spotters in our bridge saw the first ice during the early morning and we started to navigate into it at around 07:30 in the morning. Conditions were very good; the sea was calm and there was no swell. Although the sky was partially clouded with grey clouds over the horizon, we still could see some interesting wildlife. We managed to see many birds, spotting numerous ivory gulls and Brünnich’s guillemots flying around our ship, a couple of arctic skuas and also many flocks of kittiwakes and arctic terns among others.

Brünnich’s guillemot is a stout, sturdily built auk that is slightly smaller than the common guillemot. Adult birds are approximately 41 cm long and weigh 700–1200 g. It is one of the most numerous seabirds in Svalbard, breeding in dense colonies all over the archipelago. In total 142 colonies are known. The largest (several over 100,000 pairs) are situated on the south-eastern parts of Spitsbergen (Koval’skijfjella and Stellingfjellet), Hopen and Bjørnøya. Brünnich’s guillemots from Svalbard generally winter in waters off Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland (Canada), although many stay in the Barents Sea throughout the year.

An interesting sight we had in the morning was a low tangent arc below the Sun This formation due to long hexagonal columns of ice crystals shone for a good half an hour before other grey clouds covered it. It is worth to notice that this is a rare sight in the sky and that Pieter, Eduardo did not hesitate to share their excitement with those around pointing it out to other guests, colleagues and crew on board.

The excitement of the day increased during the late morning and during the whole afternoon due to the expectation of our guests to witness the sight of a polar bear. Consequently, all our guides made a big effort to spot one of these elusive creatures. They spent many hours spotting for bears either from the bridge of our ship or from the outside decks. All these efforts made our guests aware of how hard is to spot polar bears in the vastness of the arctic pack ice. Hence our guides, bridge personnel and guests, played for long hours the game of seek and hide with the potential bears that could be walking in the area.

Dinner was very special today since we all had dinner outside, we enjoyed a great BBQ. This activity included music and dancing in the aft outside deck of our ship. Party lasted until 10 PM and both guests, crew and staff had a great time enjoying the music of many classic songs of rock and roll. Despite all our efforts, we all went to sleep without having any sight of polar bear hoping that the next day would bring us this rare and spectacular arctic sight.

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