Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Zodiacs and Walrus and Bears, Oh My!

More adventures around Svalbard

The boating party zips off on an island excursion. All photos: Roy Stehle

A "huddle" of walrus loll while the Akademik Ioffe floats just offshore.

On Isispynten island, this single polar bear offers a striking silhouette.

Roy Stehle (our communications engineer at SRI) sent a couple more notes from the ship Akademik Ioffe where he and wife Margie enjoyed a 15-day cruise around Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago. Roy writes, “We had a great time at Kraemerpynten at Kvitoya [the eastern-most island in the chain]. We got really close to walrus in the water while on our Zodiacs.” 

Humans check out the walruses. . .

. . .while a pod of walruses check out the humans.

“The afternoon was foggy,” Roy continues, “so we couldn’t land at Andreenesset [an ice-free spot on this mostly ice-capped island]. This was a historic [site] where Andree’s balloon adventure came to an end.”  

Arctic history buffs may get the reference to Swedish adventurer Solomon August Andree, who with two companions attempted to reach the North Pole by helium-filled balloon in 1897, instead crashing several days into the flight. The balloon’s demise forced the trio to make an over-ice attempt to find safety before the Arctic winter set in–an odyssey which ended months later at Andreenesset Island, where they all perished. For those awaiting word back in Sweden and elsewhere, the field party simply disappeared, their fate a mystery until their Andreenesset camp site was discovered in 1930, with undeveloped film and a diary documenting their ordeal. 

While walrus viewing was clearly excellent, weather foiled several other planned excursions.  The ship visited “Soroya (Great Island), but the winds [were] Beaufort 7 with white caps,” Roy writes.  “Half the ship decided to venture out.  We stayed on-board, not wanting to get soaked in the pounding waves to see little wildlife.” 

Still, they had their moments. “We went in the Zodiacs to Isispynten. The name implies a point.  As the ice retreats, it’s been found to be an island.  The weather improved greatly and the lighting was dramatic for viewing a single polar bear, believed to be a female.” 

 

Enjoy Roy’s photos!

Kip

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