Arctic Day 5 – Hinlopen Strait

Scuba diving in the arctic, during the summer, in a snow storm.

Most people would think you are crazy to want to scuba dive in the arctic. Throw in a major snow storm and they will really think your really nuts to go diving.  This doesn’t stop Dennis and his crew on the NatGeo Explorer from getting in the water to get some underwater video to show us.  The only disappointing thing is they wouldn’t let me go with them :(

Instead, I was stuck on the deck taking pictures of the thousands of seabirds nesting on the sheer cliffs directly off the bow.

Taking pictures of the nesting seabirds on the cliffs of Alkefjellet

Alkefjellet cliffs from the deck of the NatGeo Explorer

As we were maneuvering away from the cliffs we disturbed the guillemots resting the water.  It was quite a sight to see hundreds of these birds all “running” across the water to get out of the way of our ship.

Guillemot running away

These are the same birds nesting on the side of the cliffs so they must be able to fly.  It’s curious why they choose to run across the water rather than fly away.

Guillemots running across the water

Jesus bird?

Our next step was Torelneset.  After going on several of the hikes on the rather desolate gravel and tundra of Svalbad, the scenery was getting rather monotonous.  I wasn’t real excited to go on another hike but we wanted to get off the ship and stretch our legs.  Plus, you never know what you spot while out on a hike.  Even though the wildlife is scarce out on the hikes there are still good pictures to be taken.  You just need to be a little more creative to get something worth showing.

Svalbard Tundra

Torelneset had a walrus haul out which we spent an unfortunately small amount of time at.  Lindblad does almost everything right but I was very disappointed in the amount of time (barely 15 minutes) we were allowed to spend taking photos of the walruses here.  Given we went on an almost 2 hour hike around the desolate tundra I would have thought they could have given more time for the walruses.  Oh well, you can’t win them all so you need to make the best of it and I think I was still able to get a few keepers.  The light was very flat and grey so some significant amount of photoshop was needed.

Walrus haul out

Tusks up

Walrus duel

In addition to not having much time with the walruses, we weren’t able to get very close.  The staff drew a line in the sand not to cross.  I suppose it was for our safety since getting impaled by once of those tusks would not be very fun.  Luckily my 500mm with doubler was able to bring them in fairly close.

Miki in front of walrus haul out

After our short walrus sighting the weather started to clear and we heading to one of my favorite places of the trip.  The Austfonna ice cap.  It’s the largest ice cap by area and second largest by volume in Europe.  The largest glacier by volume in Europe is the Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland which we visited several weeks earlier.  Glaciers are extremely photogenic.  It’s hard to take a bad pictures of these amazing ice creations… especially when we had such fantastic light.

Austfonna Glacier from a distance

Ice cave in the Austfonna glacier

and one of my favorite shots of the entire trip…

Waterfall off the Austfonna glacier

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply