MS Polar Star

The Svalbard Cruise Log Book

Here you can read excerpts from the Svalbard cruise log book from previous Svalbard cruises.

FRIDAY, June 11th 2010

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FRIDAY, June 11th 2010
Longyearbyen - 78 10‟ North, 015 20‟ East
Barentsburg - 78 00‟ N, 014 00‟ E
Weather: Sunny, blue sky, no wind.
Temperature: 12º C/45º F

After a sightseeing tour to the Svalbard Museum and around Longyearbyen we boarded the Polar Star. After checking-in, welcome cocktails and snacks were served in the observation lounge. This was followed by an introduction and a presentation by Expedition Leader Steffen Biersack, the Captain Leszek Slawski, the Hotel Manager Natasha and the guide team. We received a lot of practical information and had a lifeboat drill as we sailed away from the town. Dinner was served while we sailed south-west along Isfjorden to the Russian town of Barentsburg.

It is located in Grønfjorden (Green Fjord) and is a Russian coal mining community with 400 inhabitants from Russia and Ukraine. It is also a family community with 22 children and 100 pigs. We had a guided tour around the city with two local guides and were entertained by an enchanting folklore show in the theatre.

At 22.30, the Polar Star sailed out of Isfjorden and passed the island of Prins Karls Forland on our way north to many anticipated adventures.

SATURDAY, June 12th 2010

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Ny-Alesund - 78 50‟ N, 011 30‟, E
Magdalenefjorden - 79 30‟ N, 010 30‟ E
Weather: overcast, no wind.
Temperature: 6° C/43º F

In the early morning we came into Kongsfjord and arrived at Ny Ålesund, said to be the worlds northern-most community. It is a former coal mining settlement that has become an important international research centre. Work is mainly on the atmosphere and ozone layer, but geological, biological and glacial research is also carried out here by many different countries. We had guided walking tours in town, where we divided into different groups and some went bird hunting (armed with a telescope only!). The rest of us had a cultural and historical overview. During our time here we looked at the old train that was in use in the mining period. Among everything else here holding the title “northernmost”, this train is the northernmost railway in the world.

We walked through this small town with colorful wooden houses from before World War II. Some of us even went inside one of them – where they have made a museum – and we could see how people were living in the early 1960‟s. Next to the Amundsen bust we heard about the many people starting their expeditions from this remote settlement. But the most interesting story was the one about the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and the Italian, Umberto Nobile. They flew over the North Pole in an airship in 1926. Some of us walked over to the airshipmast that is still there. After that we enjoyed some time for ourselves and some shopping, in this peaceful place.

Underneath one of the old houses there is often a family of Arctic foxes and they are here this year too. Many of us saw the male at very close range. He was very active – running around, sniffing the ground, digging in the soil and coming very close to us. At the end of our time ashore some of us were surprised to see an Arctic Tern fall onto the ground next to the fox. The fox saw it and soon picked it up in its mouth before disappearing under the house, which is where the cubs are born. Other interesting wildlife included Reindeer, Arctic Terns, Red-throated Divers, Snow Buntings and Arctic Skuas.

From the dock the ship headed north, past the seven glaciers, towards Magdalenefjorden. This is the most well known fjord in Spitsbergen and is also one of the few places where big cruise ships are allowed to come. It is a lovely fjord with peaked mountains on both sides and an impressive glacier at the end. These are the mountains Willem Barents first saw when he discovered Svalbard in 1596, naming the biggest island Spitsbergen (peaked mountains) after them.

Entering the fjord, a snow-covered peninsula stuck out from the southern shore; this is where we landed with the Zodiacs. This is Gravneset (“the grave-yard peninsula”) where Dutch and English whalers from northwestern Spitsbergen came to bury their dead in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are 150 men buried here. Down on the beach there are remains from two blubber ovens where blubber from whales was rendered or boiled down. At the end of the beach lies a small cabin where the Sysselmannen (Governor) has officers during the summer.

After dinner we went close to the spectacular front of the Smeerenburg glacier. All around were dramatic, snow-covered mountains smaller glaciers and small bays. In some of them there was still ice attached to the land but it is melting rapidly. Sailing northwards out of Smeerenburg Fjord, Polar Star turned to the east.

SUNDAY, June 13th 2010

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SUNDAY, June 13th 2010
Moffen: 80° 00‟ N, 014° 27.8‟ E
Our furthest north: 81° 06‟ N
Phippsoya – 80° 40‟ N, 021° 00‟ E
Weather: foggy early, overcast later, calm
Temperature: 6° C/43º F

We reached the walrus haul-out on the island of Moffen at approximately 01.30 in the morning. The island is very unusual because it resembles a tropical atoll – it is low-lying and made of shingle with a large lagoon in the middle, which was still frozen over. From some distance away we could see that there were many walrus. In addition to some in the water there were three groups on land; the total number was estimated at 140-150. Despite their huge size walrus eat mainly shellfish and crabs. The most exciting bird was one of the very rarely-seen Sabine‟s Gulls. Only a few pairs of this species nest in Svalbard and Moffen is one of the regular places to see them. After flying along the beach it flew out towards us and gave some of us excellent views. After spending more than 30 minutes at the island the ship moved away and those of us who had got up went back to bed.

During breakfast it was a little foggy but by the time we had finished eating viewing conditions had improved and we could see our first drift ice. We were right on the edge of the ice field and it was broken into many floes. Most were quite small but there were a lot of larger sheets too. All eyes were looking for wildlife and although there were plenty of birds the only sign of bears were some old footprints in the snow. Another highlight of the voyage, in addition to pushing through the ice, was crossing an invisible line – 81° 06.71‟ North (and 019° 39.48‟ E). The captain sounded the horn in recognition of our achievement and we celebrated with some Norwegian liquor (not as nice as Scotch whisky!).

After lunch we were again in open water but as we approached Seven Islands more ice came into view. Soon our first Polar Bear was spotted from the bridge but it was a long, long way away. Luckily, as we turned around to get closer to the bear, another one was seen in front of us; it was a big male. The ship slowed down and stopped and the bear very slowly started to come towards us. This was very exciting and the bear kept coming! Eventually it was only a few metres behind us and then it slowly walked away. It was a marvellous chance to see, photograph and video the “King of the Arctic” at close range.

Leaving the bear behind, we sailed the short distance to Phipps Island, one of the Seven Islands. On the way we saw Ross Island, the northernmost point in Europe. Once the ship was at anchor we set off in a fleet of zodiacs to explore the bay between Phipps, Martens and Parry Islands. There was still winter ice in one of the bay and some people had the chance to get out of the boats and set foot on the floating mass. There was even time for a snowball fight, during which the English beat the French! Another highlight was to get very close to a group of Walrus; some were on ice and some were in the water. One of them had very long tusks and others came closer to have a look at us.

Once we were all aback aboard the ship weighed anchor and turned southwest, towards the Hinlopen Strait.


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HURTIGRUTEN SVALBARD AS, P.O. Box 548, N-9171 Longyearbyen
Telephone.: +47 79 02 61 00 | 951 251 579