That’s really the only direction to go around here. Everyone is trying to get North starting with the first explorers a couple of hundred years ago. There are trappers and hunters and guys in balloons trying to reach the North Pole, all buried at various points along the Coast. Unfortunately the harsh environment and many challenges of snow and ice took many prisoners, the worst of which were the whalers. So on that sombre note, we are joining these age old explorers in the hopes of seeing as much as we can of Spittsburgen, ideally without meeting their same fate. Heading out of Isfjord the fog just started to lift a little. It was still pretty grey and dreary though. That boat on the right belongs to the Sysselmannen (governer of Svalbard). It was very reassuring to know he was about in that monster! There were fairly regular cruise ships heading in and out of Longyearbyen too.
Here’s a better shot of the Sysselmannen’s boat tied alongside one of the pontoons.
Anyway, we didn’t make it particularly far before getting distracted by massive glaciers; Ymerbukta and Trygghamna. These spectacular feats of nature are even more amazing when up close. We spent several hours at the mouth of Isfjord motoring up as close as we could brave and trying to get some cool photos.
Still several miles away at the mouth of the branch of the fjord:
Time to set up the glacier selfie…
There’s D, directing and testing the shot in the lower panel. And selfie time!!!
We motored around a bit and I even had a go at flying the drone. Unfortunately that didn’t go so well – apparently I need to practice in an open field rather than on a sailboat with 6 knots of local iceberg breeze. I will insert a link to the youtube video once we have decent network (probably back in London….).
Through this whole excursion Captain Haddock was over the moon – he could barely stop smiling! It really was something special to be taking our own boat up to icebergs so far north! Basically every time we set off for the next week or so, we will be sailing further north than any of us have ever been before. This thought would sink in every now and then so it’s no wonder Captain H was so pleased!
Out of Isfjord, we turned right and started a 15 hour slog North between mainland Spittsburgen and Prins Karls Forland, a long thin island that runs up the West Coast. The scenery itself was pretty spectacular, with massive glacers jutting down around the mountains on both sides of the channel.
And it was a real slog – the sun didn’t come out until towards the end of our attempt. We were hoping to head right up to the NE corner of Svalbard, the northenmost destination on our itinerary first so that we could work our way back south again slowly. It became clear early on that this wasn’t going to happen. OK it took twelve hours of beating into 20-30 knot winds. Plus there was loads to do up Kongsfjorden, just a day’s sail away. It’s really hard to show photos of just how bumpy it was.
That’s Touche, with Danish skipper Judith with her Norwegian husband and another Norwegian friend on board (so I am hesitant to call it a Danish boat 😉 ). We beat relentlessly back and forth across the five mile wide passage, making on the smallest gains northward. Eventually we turned the engine on and motor-sailed somewhat more effectively against the wind. It still took forever though and we were all exhausted by the time we turned right into Kongsfjorden.
My new favourite passtime is watching the Auks and Puffins try to take off from the water as we sail past. They seem to represent a bridge in natural selection between penguins and birds that can fly. Their tiny wings relative to massive bodies just about get them up into the air after bouncing along the surface of the water. More often than not though it seems they fail completely and end doing a nose dive into the waves. If they do make it into the air they have to flap their little wings at a ridiculous rate just to hold themselves above the surface. Some of them clear and take off, but others carry on like this for awhile, flapping about two feet above the waves until either they catch the right wind perhaps and fly off, or dive again back into the sea. Apparently they only have the energy to try a couple of times before they have to take a break. I have a stream of dreadful photographs of birds in the distance trying to fly and will try to post some of the best when I can upload better quality versions.
We headed into Ny London for the night, a little abandoned mining village across from Ny Alesund, the most northerly settlement in the world. It’s calm, it’s quiet, and after a short trip ashore, we slept.