July 7, 2022
We sailed towards the fjords in Hornsund, known for its frozen landscape and first discovered by Jonas Poole, a British explorer who named Hornsund after his team brought back a reindeer horn in 1610.
In the A.M., a landing was scheduled at Isbjornharmna, one of the last working research stations set up by the Poles in the 1950s to study glaciers and geology, among other things. Gusty winds, so the landing was called off. Up ahead, we anchored at Samarinvågen, an out of a postcard glacier bay where we spent two hours cruising away. In the distance, splashes of a ring seal close to ice sheets occasionally broke the silence. Brown mountain peaks engulfed the bay and worked up optical illusions.
A large mirror of mountains reflected on the still water, dotted by little auks resting on some of ice, kitty wakes feeding on glacier surfaces and a Northern Fulmar taking off. Our guide anticipated a glacier calving moment, but we were called off to the other side of the bay because a humpback whale and her calf made an entrance. It was amazing, we watched it dive in and breach its tail, there’s nothing more elegant than a wet shiny tip of a whale’s tail sticking out of the water. We zoomed back to the active glacier and stuck around until a large chunk of ice actually fell off and produced this forceful thunder. Wowzers!
After lunch we headed towards Burgerbukta, a fjord that splits into two bays. As I have a very image led imagination, I tried my best to ditch unnecessary images of burgers (maybe on ice?) everytime I heard Burgerbukta. This time, we cruised around the most beautiful icebergs and large packs of floating ice until we stopped by imposing glacial cliffs. Shifts in geological formations with time over a mil years ago created these out of this world beauties we marveled at. The environment was serene, lacked shrieks of excitement as no polar bear or cubs were spotted, just a colony of kittywakes landing, feeding and hanging out on a large ice berg. Clicking frenzy for some.
We cruised around ice in all shapes, sizes and colors. I was lucky enough to be the chosen one to lick a block of clear ice with bubbly! Salty, I may have chipped a tooth, so I threw it back in the water. Ops, should I have not?
It was our last excursion before sailing back to land and its peoples. It felt strange after being on water for a week. Full on celebration and love for the captain and crew after dinner. We had a good time, stayed up for one final glare at the midnight glow and called it a night.
July 8, 2022
Disembarkation – Longyearbyen
A couple of hours wait after breakfast, settling accounts and what not, we docked at Svalbard at 10am and hung around for hours until we boarded the flight to Oslo at 3pm. Impending doom when they announced our flight to Oslo will be delayed by an hour. Were we going to miss our connecting flights? Full on anxiety, until we landed earlier than expected because the pilot tried to make up for lost time. However, as soon as we landed, he made a kind suggestion that we make a run for it to catch our next flight. Are you kidding me? He wasn’t flying a bunch of spring chickens, for the majority over 65, and given how tight the time to the next flight was, how on earth…but anyway, it just got worse when he made another announcement a minute later.
The doors couldn’t open so we were going to be on the runway for a while. How long? He couldn’t tell.
Missed flights, delays and airport /airline strikes, nearby hotels at full occupancy tensed up the atmosphere at Oslo airport. After 48 hours or so, the boomers finally made it home.
What a way to end this trip, Sarah! After all that time in the wilderness, it must have been a real shock to get back to the frustrations of civilization.
It was amazing! Whenever I feel down, I always go back to these pictures and the memories. I really hope you experience it some day.