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ocean voyaging







(named after a Boston, took note of a sailing vessel a Coast’s spectacular Hinlopen seen and heard, their plain- Brünnich’s guillemots. 

Mass., coal-mining magnate), half-mile away; as it departed Strait to stop at a series of tive high-pitched cries a stark Thinking back to when we

along with a handful of sci- a nearby inlet, it abruptly cliffs called Alkefjellet. These contrast from the adult bird’s were at the edge of the Arctic 

entific outposts, two active altered course. We spied a tower above the sea on the raucous squawks. While most ice pack north of Svalbard, 

coal mines (one Russian
white object in the water just west side of the strait and are birds were busy feeding or searching in vain for a south- The bird cliffs 
and one Norwegian), two ahead of it, and speculated
home to thousands of nest- tending young, some fought, bound lead, I got the tiniest 
of Alkefjellet 
large abandoned mines and
it might be a beluga whale. ing Brünnich’s guillemots occasionally to the death as inkling of what Shackleton’s are home to 

a handful of smaller mines, We quickly realized, to our and a smaller contingent of evidenced by the handful
men aboard Endurance felt thousands of 

now defunct, nearly all of delight, that it was in fact a kittiwakes. We maneuvered of loser’s carcasses floating
when beset in the Antarctic Brünnich’s 
on the glassy surface. In a 
which we sampled. Most swimming polar bear travers- adjacent to the sun-splashed ice. There is a visual phenom- guillemots.
guidebooks consider this
ing the mouth of the fjord. vertical face and loitered there wildlife photographer’s life enon of the sea ice called “ice 

the “interesting” coast, and Two crewmembers and I for nearly two hours, tak-
there are moments seared blink.” It’s an iridescent white 

indeed it’s where most of the jumped in the tender and ing in the mass of avian life. into his or her memory. I viv- haze that hangs over the ice 

(numbering between three smaller Longyearbyen-based headed out for a closer look. The sky and the sea, both idly recall each one of these, field. Ice blink is brighter 
tour charter vessels travel.
We chose what we consid- on the surface and beneath such as capturing images of 
and five, as two flew in to where the pack ice is denser 
join us after our arrival) The eastern coastline is, in ered a safe distance and one as the guillemots dive and Galapagos giant turtles, of or where it completely cov- 
Polar bears 
unforgettable land and sea- my opinion however, equally that we were certain would swim underwater, were so Antarctica’s great wandering ers the dark waters on which 
are Sval- 
bard’s apex scapes, and a wide range of if not more enticing. While
not stress the animal. As we crowded with birds it was a albatrosses and of Heligo- it floats. The absence of ice 

predators wildlife encounters, includ- it lacks the picturesque fjords neared this majestic beast,
wonder there weren’t regular land’s Atlantic gannets. To blink denotes open water.
ing magnificent tusked wal- and high peaks of the western we gaped in wonder. He collisions. Chicks could be
these I add Alkefjellet and the
We used this feature, much 
and extreme 
ruses, whales, reindeer and shore, it is truly deserted. looked and swam much like a like Shackleton and countless 
caution must 
tens of thousands of birds, There are no active settle- gargantuan snow-white Lab- other polar seafarers have, to 
be used 
whenever all of which were migratory ments or scientific outposts; rador retriever. We loitered look for ice-free water. After 

going ashore save for one, the Svalbard days go by without so much several hundred yards away what seemed an eternity but 
rock ptarmigan. And, of as a sighting of another ves- and watched as he reached was, in fact, no more than 45 
to avoid and 
course, there was the archi- sel or even an AIS target.
shore. He casually looked minutes of probing the pack, 
deter bear 
encounters.
pelago’s star attraction: polar It is also virtually bereft of back at us before majestically we at last found a promis-

bears. If other regions of the protected anchorages, which and nimbly climbing over
ing lead parallel to but east
the rock-strewn shoreline. He 
world, places that are easily calls for careful cruise plan- of our route. With this exit 
accessed, are likened to alloys ning. We paid the price for shook off, once again as a dog strategy established, the ten- 

— meaning they represent experiencing this magnificent would, and then lumbered up sion level in the pilothouse 

an amalgamation of civiliza- desolation once again, spend- to a nearby glacier where he dropped perceptibly. Looking 

tion — Svalbard and locales ing several nights in dam- rubbed his face in the snow. back, like a ray of sunshine, 
of this ilk are elemental, the nable open roadsteads, which Then he rolled onto his back, the brilliant white line of the 

most basic, and the Earth’s induce incessant rolling.
sticking all four paws sky- pack’s margin was visible in 

few remaining wild places.
In addition to our trek ward, arching and scratching. all its glory. With it in our 

north to the polar ice pack, He was roughly 8 feet long wake, it is resplendent. n

Named for a Bostonian
two of the voyage’s most and, based on his generous 
Though mostly deserted, unforgettable days unfolded belly, I guessed him to weigh Steve D’Antonio is a writer, 

Svalbard’s western shoreline as follows:
1,500 pounds. It was a truly photographer and marine 

does include grand fjords, We were at Sallyhamna awe-inspiring moment.
systems expert who after work- 

towering snow-wreathed anchorage at 79° 48’ N ing for Zimmerman Marine, 
Sea bird cliffs
mountains and the few ves- latitude on Svalbard’s West started his own consulting busi- 
tiges of population including Coast. Over lunch in the We detoured from our south- ness in 2007.

the capital of Longyearbyen
pilothouse, Migration’s crew
bound route through the East



30 OCEAN NAVIGATOR
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017
www.oceannavigator.com
www.oceannavigator.com
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017
OCEAN NAVIGATOR 31


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