10 Aug

I wish I could photograph or somehow capture for you the exhilaration I’m feeling at this moment. I’m lying on my bunk enjoying the sway of choppy seas as we cross the sea between Spitsbergen and Greenland. The reason I’m so excited is that, after an absolutely brilliant day spotting my first polar bear and the sight of a massive glacier calving, I’m told that in a couple of hours we will be reaching a part of the sea where some large swell has stirred up a load of nutrients in the water and where it is just possible that we might see blue whales.

This would be a lifelong dream fulfilled so I’m trying desperately hard not to get my hopes up too high, as nature is of course wonderfully
unpredictable and beats only to its own drum, but am failing. I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. All the other passengers have gone for a couple of hours sleep before the exhibition leader will intercom us to come up to the bridge if there’s anything to see, but I couldn’t sleep if I tried, despite my anti-seasickness pill induced drowsy state! Up to wait in the bridge I think…

11 Aug

It’s 10 o’clock in the evening, just watched a film down in the lecture room because we’re on at “at sea” day and then wandered to the bar for a drink.

Was just stood out on deck on the port side having a chat when I saw a blow in the distance! I kept watching intently and it happened two more times! I was so excited! I ran up to the bridge where everyone had congregated because the naturalist, who’d been keeping watch, had announced on the intercom that they could see a fin whale. As we watched it surfaced several more times to blow about 100 metres from the ship. Absolutely incredible!

The fin whale is the second largest whale on the planet and this one was about 20 metres long, practically black in colour. Fin whales surface three to five times before going under for about three minutes. The ship stopped while we watched as he looped the boat a few times, the staff are incredibly skilled at predicting where they’ll next surface. My first whale!!! A lifelong ambition achieved. Certainly brightened up a long day at sea!

13 Aug

After our three days at sea crossing between Spitsbergen and Greenland I’ve been so content today spending hours out on the bow just watching the ice floes drift by. As far as the eye could see in all directions we’ve been surrounded with ice in varying shades of aquamarine blue. However, when at about 9pm there came an announcement from the bridge that they’d spotted a polar bear on the ice, I’ve never seen a bar empty quicker in my life! We all rushed to the bow and there he was straight ahead of us eating. When he’d finished he rolled around for a while and had a stretch, quite clearly showing off for the cameras, and the only attention he paid to us was to stand up and put his nose in the air a few times to have a sniff despite the fact that our able crew had managed to get us within about 40 feet of him.

He walked over to the edge of his piece of ice and the corner broke off, sending him into the water, we all stifled chuckles as we were trying to be quiet for him. He clambered out again onto another piece and shook himself off like a gigantic white dog. As he migrated around to the port the side of the ship and looked to be close to swimming off, another bigger one appeared right next to us on the starboard side, again within about 40 feet. He also put on a show for us, most enjoyably of all putting his chin and chest on the floor and pushing himself along with his back legs! It was absolutely amazing all silently watching him while he just went about being magnificent for us!

He eventually swam off into the sunset, the boat began to pick up speed and we sat back down in the bar to compare photos, when about 5 minutes later we all rushed out to the stern to see yet another polar bear! It’s so thrilling how quietly and slowly our little ship can approach them so that you’re practically within jumping distance, it was the most incredible encounter.

With just an hour and a half to wait until the midnight sun we stayed up looking at photos and playing cards until heading up to the highest deck to look at the hands down most beautiful view I’ve ever seen. Gorgeous colours in the sky reflecting on the perfectly calm sea between the thousands upon thousands of chunks and slabs of sea ice. Every day on this trip seems to bring a more spectacular view.

Including one bear we saw through binoculars lounging on a patch of snow on a cliff in Spitsbergen, that brings the count up to four.