At last the mist is lifting and we can see the coast of Isfjord.
At the end of the fjord is the town of Longyearbyen, the "terminus"
of the second stage of the Imram 2004 voyage. We no longer need
to stretch our eyelids to detect possible obstacles that don't show
up on the radar screen. A pleasant force 3 wind is pushing us gently
over the icy fjord water. The swell has calmed and we are all busy
either reading, sleeping or discussing in the warm cockpit. The
autopilot just needs the occasional directional change and the sails
are well adjusted. Longyearbyen should soon be in sight...
The last few days have given us plenty of opportunities to contemplate
an almost intact wilderness, starting with a landing on Björnöya
(Bear Island), a wild island with a population of 5 (people) half
way between North Cape and Spitzbergen. The search for a suitable
spot to drop anchor is not easy but Peter, like a wily polar bear,
manages to sniff out a protected little bay where the team attacks
a hearty meal. Impressive for its wild cliffs dotted with bird colonies,
this island has an "end of world" feeling about it. Part
of the team disembarked to investigate the remains of mining activities,
while the others kept watch aboard and recovered from their recent
Long hours on watch spent peering into the mist and fighting the
insidious damp coldness have rewarded us with some unforgettable
moments: a whale that dives majestically just a short distance from
Imram, a group of seals surprised at being disturbed during their
interminable quest for food, and the fascinating sight of numerous
species of birds (notably fulmars, kittiwakes and little auks) either
diving or flying off as we approach. Force 4-5 winds alternate with
non-existant wind, when we are forced to use the engine....
Björnöya - Bear island - (c) Norsk Polarinstitut
Yesterday morning we had our first view of Spitzbergen in the form
of Hornsund, the most southerly fjord on the west coast. At first
we could only imagine the fjord through a sea of mist while zigzagging
among the ice floes and growlers the appeared one after another
out of nowhere on the radar screen.
Dense ice (3-4/10) prevented us from reaching the head of Horsundfjord,
but we still had a close view of beautiful ice sculptures drifting
with currents and wind, as well as the highly crevassed snout of
a glacier flowing into the sea.. Drifting ice made it difficult
to return to the mouth of the fjord, and with thick mist Rob had
to climb the mast to find the threads of clear water.
A visit to a Polish polar base, situated on the north bank of the
fjord, made us appreciate warm Polish hospitality and a good bottle
of Cognac.... Explanations of the various scientific projects, of
life in this remote location and of the dangers of encounters with
polar bears... Also the moment for us to load rifles and to practice
the necessary security measures, just in case.... The last encouter
with this ice lord was only a few days ago.
| Index 2004 | Suite
Imram Voyage 2004 - Integral 12.50 - ACAPELA, juillet 2004