A VERY Curious Walrus and....a Polar Bear! - Cruise Day 7
In the morning of Day 7, our ship cruised by Barentsburg, a Russian settlement that is still operational with active mining. In previous years, ships would have stopped for a visit, but given the political climate, our ship did not stop. Instead we travel across the fjord to a protected area in Ymerbukta where we did a 2 mile hike in deeper snow. We had a gorgeous view of a glacier with some ice floating in the sea immediately in front of it. A few seals were resting though at quite a far distance from us. We ascended to a ridge for breathtaking views of the fjord. As we slogged along in the deep snow, sometimes we dropped down to thigh height and it was great to be a bit more active.
A Walrus Tries to Board the Zodiac
Our afternoon zodiac excursion brought us close to glacial ice and some bird wildlife, mainly common eiders and arctic skuas. Our excursion leader began to navigate us down a small river to the glacial between two large ice sheets before turning back about halfway as we had spotted 2 walruses! These two were full of curiosity and frolicked playfully very close to our zodiac. One even swam within about 2 feet of the boat, emerging from the water and looking directly at us. Amazing. Very regrettably, I had my zoom lens on so I couldn’t take a photo when he was SO CLOSE. My husband at least got a video. Incredible and incredibly lucky.
Drumroll please...a Polar Bear!!!
After returning to the ship, we thought our wildlife viewing was done for the day, but…..one of the guides spotted a polar bear from the bridge of the ship. I admit we were pretty skeptical that we would see one when we had already left the ice pack and were fairly far south in the archipelago. He was wandering among some Svalbard reindeer, gradually ambling down to the shore. At one point he stood on his hind legs and sniffed the air before resuming his casual stroll. When we left him, he was on the shore consuming a reindeer carcass. My pictures are terrible as he was quite a distance from the ship and beyond my lens’s abilities, but still incredible to encounter one at all!
That night we dropped anchor for a while in a beautiful fjord surrounding by towering mountains. The mountains here are pretty incredible. The mountain ridges are shockingly symmetric and all dotted with a perfect white snowcap. There was a glistening massive ice sheet dotted with specks of gray which you could determine were seals via the binoculars. It would have been the perfect backdrop for a sunset casting a warm glow over the majestic fjord, but when we retired to our room a bit past 11 PM, the midnight sun, of course, was still bright.