Two puffins and a polar bear! We set sail last evening, at about 6, having had to get all the luggage – including camera, media and scientific equipment, on board by carrying it through another ship! We sailed out of Longyearbyen for a few hours and moored up in a bay called Trygghamna, which is Norwegian for “safe harbour,” very beautiful place, surrounded on all three sides by snow capped mountains. We ate a very welcome dinner of salmon and pasta, followed by grapes and cheese! Anna, the cook, is fantastic and keeps making us all lovely food to keep us going as it is rather cold!!!!
It’s around about zero degrees and getting colder as we travel north. Yesterday we went to visit the school in Longyearbyen and met some of the teachers and students, they showed us around there school, as there are a lot less students there than at Kidbrooke they teach them as a year group and the teachers teach lots of different subjects, though they have specialist rooms for gym, art and tech. The students made us a lovely soup from vegetables and sausages and one of the students played their guitar for us, apparently he taught himself how to play and has played for the King of Norway, he was very impressive!!
Woke early this morning and rushed onto deck as an arctic fox had apparently been spotted, except it was a reindeer!! Just goes to show how distance and scale are very hard to judge here, especially because there are no trees. That woke us up bright and early and after breakfast we were ready to go for a long trek, Christian the guide had to give us a safety lecture on how to behave if we saw a polar bear and he showed us what he would do with his flare gun and rifle if a bear came too close. However, he said, it was unlikely we would see a bear in that area at this time of year so we were not to worry. Off we set, walking along the shoreline and spotting whale bones and different varieties of lichens and vegetation.
As Christian guided us up a rather steep slope at the bottom of a mountain one of the students spotted the carcass of an arctic fox, most of the body had been eaten but its tail and paws were still intact. A few metres on we came across the carcass of a reindeer, Christian thought that it had probably fallen down the scree and broken it’s neck, it was rather sad looking! We walked under a mountain called Bird Ledge where hundreds of seabirds nest – very noisy! After walking for two and a half hours the Noorderlicht sailed to us and sent the zodiac to come and pick us up from the shore.
On our return we had to raise the sails, which took a lot of organisation and effort – need strong arms to raise sails, and we were taught how to tie nautical knots – very useful!! We then sat down to lunch, at which point the Captain came in to say he could see a polar bear on the shore!!! We think had been attracted by our scent! It was an amazing sight and though it was far away I managed to get some really good shots, everyone was on deck capturing the bear in as many forms as possible! As we were staring in awe at the bear a pair of puffins flew by!! I am sooooo happy now, I really wanted to see a polar bear and some puffins and I got see both at once!! WOW!!!!!!
My team were on watch for the next two hours and we hoisted sails and tied knots and steered and learned a lot about how to sail a ship! Whilst keeping an eye on the polar bear until he decided to toddle off over the mountains! We also saw some guillemots and some arctic gulls, it really is amazing experiencing all this wildlife! Jethro is now strumming on his guitar whilst we are blogging, writing diaries, making tea and chilling after a hard days work – team 4 have just raised the mainsail! Having such a fantastic experience so far, hard work but well worth it!! Speak soon, Jess x