July 6, 2022
In the A.M. we chilled out and sat through slides of bird migration and an instructive assessment of photos shot by hobbyists onboard. The ship slowly gained momentum as the engineers worked the engines. Next up, sailing south of Svalbard towards the entrance of Van Mijenfjorden. We anchored in the bay encompassed by rugged mountains and glaciers. Abandoned camps, except for Camp Millar, on the shores of Varsolbukta were visible as we approached the island from the zodiac. The camps were built by the British who wanted to mine for Svalbard goodies, so they set up a company (Northern Exploration Company) didn’t make money and then sold it off to the Norwegian Government in the early 1930s.
A couple of reindeers juiced up the atmosphere when they ran towards us, took a gander and then grazed on the lush tundra. The terrain changed from rocky to spongy-like moss during the hike up rocky slopes. At the mini summit, the wind speed picked up but more importantly we were blown away by the placidity of the wilderness. Our chirpy guide suggested we spend some time in silence taking it all in, I swapped my attempt of self reflection to putting my patience to the test as one guy fidgeted with his camera apparatus.
Back onboard, after BBQ on deck, we sat tight while the crew checked on the weather conditions deeper into Van Mijenfjorden for our second excursion. Yup, windy but manageable. Over choppy waters, we rode out to- Bourbonhamna, an old whaling post where slaughtered remains of beluga whales and seals laid on shore, overturned boats in the background and a cabin Bamsebu, still in tact. But first, what’s in the name? The bay was named after Prince of Bourbon – who navigated the area in 1891-1892, there’s barely information about what brought him here. On the other hand, Bamsebu originally a whaling station is now a cabin frequented by polar bears and scientists who stay there for months to study the ecosystem.
Clear of polar bears, we wandered around freely and walked towards the base of the mountains, terrain interchangeable between green moss, rocks and seaweed that lined the shore. Ebbs and flows while the dense water sparkled under cloudy skies. The calm setting interrupted by crashing waves and birds chirping away.