August 4, 2014 – Ice edge and Kinnvika
Posted on August 8th, 2014
Most of us awoke to an early announcement this morning, alerting us to the presence of a Blue Whale with its calf right alongside the port of ‘Le Boreal.’ Naturally, we all jumped out of our beds and out onto our balconies, where we were rewarded with a spectacular and rare sight. After this incredible experience many of us were too excited to sleep again and instead enjoyed the luxurious spread that followed at breakfast.
During the morning, the bridge was open to visitors and our Expedition Team were constantly on the lookout for wildlife as ‘Le Boreal’ entered into the Arctic pack ice. We saw a number guillemots and bearded seals lying on the ice, but it became very foggy and any polar bears eluded us. However, we did reach 80⁰20’N — a longitude that many expeditions have struggled to attain— and had the privilege of witnessing the magnificent beauty of sea ice that stretches all the way across the Arctic Ocean.
By late afternoon, we reached Kinnvika, on Nordaustlandert (Northeast Land), which, despite being the second largest island of the archipelago, is incredibly remote and barren. Nordaustlandert is home to two of the biggest ice caps in the northern hemisphere, but as Jim McClintock mentioned in his lecture, the glaciers have increased tenfold in 10 years. Kinnvika itself is a scientific station that was in use during the International Geophysical Year in the late 1950s, mostly run by Swedish scientists. Since then, it has largely been abandoned, however it has been maintained by Sysselman (the Governor of Svalbard) and the sauna is still usable. We were able to access a number of the buildings and gain a valuable insight into what life would have been like on the base during that scientific collaboration.
Many of us took full advantage of being on Nordaustlandert and stretched our legs by walking a short way inland towards one of our polar bear guardians. On the way, we saw the end of the bloom for many of the flowering plants, which appeared much smaller than those we had observed on the warmer west coast of Spitsbergen. Additionally, the geomorphology of the area was proof that the landscape had been moulded by an ice cap and subsequently eroded.
On top of the neighbouring mountain, Celsiusberget, some people were able to make out a trigonometric station that represents a location used in the joint Swedish-Russian Arc-of-Meridian expeditions that took place from 1888-1902. This was one of the early, major scientific expeditions on Svalbard, which helped to ascertain the exact shape of the Earth.
We were all aboard ‘Le Boreal’ in time for dinner, where there was much discussion about how great our trip had been so far and what we still hoped to see in the coming days.