We’re five days into our trip, and after dining on chef Sarah’s phenomenal cuisine, everyone was keen to stretch their legs and spend the morning kayaking and hiking in a tranquil bay. Kayaking was a chance for everyone to soak in the quiet of the Arctic, meandering around a sheltered bay with a landscape of snow-topped mountains with moody clouds hanging over the peaks. After kayaking, with no time to change, the Zodiacs dropped us at a hunting cabin at the mouth of the bay, where a dozen arctic terns were displaying and plunge diving in the shallow waters, regularly catching fish and trying to entice a potential mate. One of the groups was lucky enough to find a purple sandpiper nest during their hike. Luckily, the bird alerted them to the presence of the nest, as they do a broken wing display to lead away potential predators. Another group trekked through deep and slushy snow, following the leader’s tracks, to find rocks encrusted with fluorescent looking lichens. Everyone went down on their knees with their cameras to practice macro photography!
After a well-deserved lunch (and a nap!), we arrived in the amazing Liedefjord (Dutch translation: ‘love bay’), where we were nestled in a backdrop of tall mountains with two active glaciers between them. We set off in Zodiacs to drive along the glacier, wrapped up warm in many layers to protect us from the cold winds flowing down the steep ice face. Here we watched sleepy bearded seals hauled out on icebergs, listened to the crackling ice, and soaked in the amazing blue patterns of the newly carved glacier front. Arctic terns, kittiwakes, glaucous gulls, and black guillemots joined us along the big ice cliffs, feeding on the small arctic cod that gather around these nutrient rich waters created by the melting glacier ice.
If all that wasn’t enough, we were treated to recaps on plants and a story of an intrepid hot air balloon expedition during cocktail hour in the ice lounge. We also learned about the wonders of lichens, and we viewed a video of undersea footage taken by our two intrepid divers (water temp of -2oC), the undersea team. This gave us an unforgettable insight into the life thriving under the surface at Alkfjellet. From the comfort of our cozy lounge while sipping drinks, we watched on video as the steep bird cliffs transformed from smothered in Guillemot poo, to dripping with soft coral and anemones. Curious transparent polychaete worms wiggled by and sea angels floated in the open waters.
We ended our day viewing over 100 walrus on Moffen Island. What a treat!