August 13th - 14th July Glacier - Ny Alesund - Magdalenefjord

We got up early as we were in Group 1 disembarking at 8am on the Zodiacs. We went in a Zodiac with Christian driving on a calm sea to the shore.

We had a choice of two walks. We decided to hike up to the glacier, a moderate to strenuous walk. We went along the beach and walked past beautiful ice 'sculptures' created by small icebergs floating from the glacier up on to the beach.

The glacier was very impressive as we got closer to it. There were small icebergs floating in the water and we saw one seal swimming in the bay.

The climb up to the 14th July Glacier was fairly steep, rocky and, in places, very muddy. Wendy stepped on a mud hole and sank into the mud halfway up to her knee. At the top it was icy when we reached the glacier, but well worth the climb because the views were fabulous. Deep crevasses traversed the ice and we got some good photos looking straight down into one of the crevasses near the head of the glacier.

We were so hot when we reached the top that we had to take off our coats. At times we could hear the glacier calving and we saw large waves, created by the falling ice, moving out into the bay. We spent about half an hour on the glacier and then returned the same way down. It took us another half an hour to reach where the Zodiacs were moored. As we neared them, we walked past another 'ice sculpture' which made an interesting composition with the Prince Albert II framed by its melting ice.

We walked past the Zodiacs and on to the bird cliffs which were about 400 metres along the beach. There was a large colony of kittiwakes. We also saw guillemots. We took some photos and then walked back to the Zodiacs. We were then taken by Robin West to see some puffins.

They were high up on rocks and we were able to take some good photos. The puffins flew over us as they went out to fish. Apparently, they beat their wings at about 300 beats per minute.

We then returned to the ship and had a great lunch on board, the first of many! The boat then left the bay and headed to Ny Alesund, an old coal mining town that is now the most northerly settlement in the world. Mining is no longer carried out there and the place is principally a research station where many nationalities operate. About 25 people live there in the winter and the number rises to over a 100 in the summer. Various nations, including the British, Norwegian, Chinese and Indian are based there.

We took a short walk into the town and went past an old steam engine that was used by the miners.

Nearby was a flock of barnacle geese.

We saw the North Pole Hotel, a shop, the post office and the museum. There was a statue of Roald Amundsen, who, in 1926, flew to the North Pole in an airship. Nearby there is the pylon that was used to hold the airship. We went into the shop and mailed some postcards to the grandchildren.

We went into the post office and stamped our passports with Ny Alesund.

The ship docked at Ny Alesund.

We walked back to the ship, had tea and scones in the lounge with Gail and then attended a lecture on the history of Spitsbergen/Svalbard given by Christian from Easter Island. Before dinner, there was the Captain's welcome party. We were guests of Robin and Jarda in the dining room. We had a very enjoyable evening with them. As we were having tea and coffee, Robin was called to the bridge because a polar bear had been sighted. We went to the bridge and could see the bear walking along the rock beach.

I managed to get some video and a few long-range photos. Another bear joined it further along the shore, but as we were second off the ship in the Zodiacs to view the bears, we only saw them lying down asleep. It was a bit of a letdown!

The boat was moored in Magdalenefjord with a glacier only a short distance from the boat. It was a very beautiful location.

At midnight we went up to the observation deck to look at the midnight sun which was catching the tops of the surrounding mountains.

We had been told that a landing there tomorrow would not now go ahead as polar bears had been sighted and it was not deemed safe.

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