Into the ice with the sail yacht Arctica II from June 26 to July 07

Every year Arctic Wildlife Tours have done a expedition with this fantastic sail yacht owned by Heinrich Eggenfeller in Longyearbyen. This year gave us challenges to get around because the drift ice still was closing off the northern and southern parts of Spitzbergen. To the south it was really bad weather the first day on our expedition.

Already out Isfjorden we noticed the wind and near Alkehornet it was really not comfortable anymore and some of the passengers was seasick. We decided to seek shelter in "Trygghavna" near Alkehornet and wait until the wind calmed down. It was gray weather and rain at this moment. After some hours anchored in "Trygghavna" the wind was little better and we continued the sailing. Still some seasickness when we passed "daudmannsodden" before we entered the sound between Spitsbergen and the island Forlandet. This was more sheltered area and the wind calmed down. We still had heavy rain and gray weather. At this moment the expedition did not look so good. We wanted to reach the northwest corner of Spitsbergen, hoping for another type of weather-system up there. On the way we stopped in Kongsfjorden and did a cruise into Krossfjorden looking for wildlife. There it was raining so heavily that it was impossible to stay outside on deck to watch for wildlife. The journey continued towards the north.

svalbard report Arctica 2017
In Raudfjorden the rain have stopped and its possible to stay outside and watch the wildlife

After reaching Raudfjorden we stayed in this area searching for specially Polar Bears. We found footprints everywhere, but mostly they was a few days old. One fresh footprint after a mother with cub was spotted but we never found the animals. The weather situation was finally turning into sunny and really nice weather at this moment. On the 4th day the rain had stopped.

Zodiac cruising in the drift ice and fjord ice of Raudfjorden the first sunny day. Delphine, Ronja and Heinrich driving.
Zodiac cruising in the drift ice and fjord ice of Raudfjorden the first sunny day. Delphine, Ronja and Heinrich driving.

I have never examined the shores and the landscapes around Raudfjorden and towards Woodfjorden this thoroughly through a binocular. Constantly looking for Polar Bears without seeing one. We talked to a couple of other ships and they had the same result so far. Anyway the guests on-board had a good time in the very nice weather. And we found a few Bearded Seals and of course some birdlife in the area.

Bearded Seal and reflections into Raudfjorden
Bearded Seal and reflections into Raudfjorden
Bearded Seal
Bearded Seal

We spent two days in Raudfjorden. Waiting and scouting for Polar Bears, we really wanted to see one. It was warm and sunny days and nights. One night some of us spent many hours out on the roof of Arctica II. No wind at all and the good temperature in the midnight sunshine made this night into one of the best memories in Svalbard for me. Even we still had not seen the wanted Polar Bears 🙂

Asgeir Helgestad, the film photographer, tries to control the drone flying over the ice documenting the melting drift ice for his climate change project
Asgeir Helgestad, the film photographer, tries to control the drone flying over the ice documenting the melting drift ice for his climate change project

Usually the expeditions with Arctica II have given us fantastic encounters with Polar Bears. But not this time. In 2015 we did two expeditions with Arctica and had 10 Polar Bears on one and 22 on the other one. In 2016 we had 33 Polar Bears during the expedition with Arctica. Prevailing ice conditions, bad weather to many days and bad luck have to be blamed for this in 2017. Anyway we had to do the best out of the other experiences we could have during this expedition. As usual is being on board Arctica a feeling of freedom and being on a real expedition.

Walrus mother and calf in Smerenburgfjorden
Walrus mother and calf in Smerenburgfjorden
Walrus mother and calf
Walrus mother and calf

In Smerenburgfjorden we met this small Walrus family. It was a fantastic encounter where the mother calling for its calf when we was there. Later, after looking at the pictures, I have become unsure if this was about family idyll? The adult Walrus looks a bit skinny on the pictures. It looks like a very old animal, and maybe this behavior was about one individual being old and sick. I am not sure about that now, but thinking about it later the behavior and situation was not something similar to anything I have seen before.

Arctic Tern attaching Jan Schippers. The colony by Virgohavna
Arctic Tern attaching Jan Schippers. The colony by Virgohavna
Arctic Tern
Arctic Tern

We visited Magdalenefjord to look for the Walruses there but no animals was found. After that the next stop was Kongsfjorden and the Ossian Sars mountain. We knew that this year it was a good place for finding Arctic Foxes. And we did. We counted two adults and 6-8 puppies near the bird cliffs there. Some scientists from the city Ny Ã…lesund was there and they said this season was good for the foxes. We had a really good experience on the shores and up on the mountain during the stay there. Little did I know that on a later trip in August a big drama while meeting a Polar Bear on land there would take place. That is another story I will write about in next blog post.

Arctic Fox near my remote controlled camera. The bird cliff behind. This was a very funny situation and with good company from the group I will never forget it.

After this we sailed for home. One hiking at Alkehornet was done, also there we had heard about some foxes, but we did not find theme. In cold and windy weather we hiked the green areas under the bird cliff. This was the last landing and experience during the expedition. The group was about to leave the ship the next day.

Travel route
Travel route

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