That’s right, the sun’s coming out and I’m ready for it. We anchored last night on the south side of a little island called Blomstrandhalvoya, where the remains of an old mining settlement called Ny London are located.
Here we blew up the dinghy and went ashore to see how the English fared at mining in the North. The story goes that Ernest Mansfield started a mine here looking for marble through the Northern Exploration Company (NEC). Unfortunately, the marble cracked or crumbled a couple of weeks after installation in London, rendered worthless from all the freezing and thawing. There are still various remnants of the mine left however and we managed a scramble over the rocks to see the little huts and old train tracks running to a hoist by the sea.
No polar bears yet but these two birds flew in and landed next to us then proceeded to trot right over to say hello. Very peculiar – we decided from our picture guide that they’re some sort of Jaeger.
This morning, after a very tasty bacon sandwich for breakfast we set off in search of the perfect glacier photo again. I feel I should mention here that we seem to have the most comprehensive collection of amateur cameras possible on a boat: two entry-level SLRs (Nikon and Canon) with inexpensive zoom lenses, one Sony compact system, two GoPros, several smartphones, one full-frame point and shoot Canon and a drone None of them are particularly high-tech or expensive but we’re still hoping for that Wildlife Photographer of the Year photo to present itself on someone’s uploads. Obviously we can’t share it here, you’ll have to go and see the exhibition! 😉
Anyway, with all this equipment in tow, plus our dinghy (with 6hp engine) and a tripod, we are off to find the perfect glacier and get a good shot. Our first attempt two days ago was hindered by inexperience and a lack of sunlight. Today therefore, we were ready for the right picture… First though we had to drift off the chart – this happened a lot as the glaciers are continuously carving and receeding, exposing more water and eventually land. So the black line we’re crossing depicts the end of the surveyed chart area.
Only two miles away from the glacier now – it looks closer doesn’t it? Here’s some perspective…
We carefully maneuvred our way past some icebergs. The last time I did this was in a massive aluminium tour boat. Our little fibreglass hull doesn’t really compare! Luckily, so far, the ice cover isn’t particularly high. It looks high, but 2 hours later we’re still motoring in towards the glacier itself and the icebergs are in reality, spread around the bay, floating singularly away from each other. The whole scene is pretty spectacular and thankfully not too high risk. Once we were in nice and close, D and I set off in the dinghy, cameras in hand, while Captain Haddock helped Hal strike some good poses. We had some brilliant scenery to work with!
Our plan from here was, as always, to try to head North so we headed out of Kongsfjord towards open ocean again. Not without trying our luck at circumnavigating Blomstrandhalvoya. This little island use to be a peninsula but when the ice behind it melted in the 1990s a small channel opened up. When we saw another boat pass through we decided it was necessary for us to try too. Here’s D on the foredeck making sure we don’t run aground…
More lovely scenery and on the way through we overheard two boats on the radio discuss a polar bear siting. Of course that meant we were scanning the coastline with binoculars looking for bears! Unfortunately we didn’t have much luck so we continued out to sea.
This attempt was only brief however – as soon as we got out there we were in 30+ knots from the North. I think by this time our tolerance had worn thin as we quickly turned round with the excuse that we hadn’t had a chance to see Ny Alesund – the northern most inhabited settlement in the world. The wind funnelled round and up the fjord so we were alongside fairly efficiently. In fact, just in time to visit the shop, open an hour a day corresponding to the various cruise ships and tour boats that come alongside. We were right in there of course, buying postcards and depositing them at the most northern post box in the world to be shipped back to England!
We spent the night moored up next to Touche, who’s crew had us round for freshly cooked brownies and Bailey’s! Delicious. They were wonderful company. Judith, the skipper is truly passionate about northern latitude sailing and has extensive experience sailing Northern Scotland and Svalbard. She was full of great tips and really knew how to make the most of the opportunity we have had to make it this far north. This photo is of Touche sailing into Kongsfjorden towards Ny Alesund. They very quickly overtook us!