20-30 July 2014 Polar Pioneer

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1 20-30 July 2014 Polar Pioneer


3 ABOUT US Aurora Expeditions embodies the spirit of adventure, travelling to some of the most wild and remote places on our planet. With over 20 years experience, our small group voyages allow for a truly intimate experience with nature. AUSTRALIA Our expeditions push the boundaries with flexible and innovative itineraries, numerous daily landings, a 24 hour open bridge policy and fascinating lectures. You ll share your adventure with like minded souls in a relaxed, casual atmosphere while making the most of every opportunity for adventure and discovery. Our highly experienced expedition team are passionate and knowledgeable they are the secret to our success. Whilst we are dedicated to providing a trip of a lifetime, we are also deeply committed to education and preservation of the environment. Our aim is to travel respectfully, creating lifelong ambassadors for the protection of our destinations. 1

4 DAY 1 Sunday, 20 July 2014 Longyearbyen Position: 22:25 hours Course: 243 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind Speed: 15 knots Air Temp: 6 C Speed: 9.6 knots Wind Direction: WNW Sea Temp: 4 C And though the sail of the whale of the remote country of Spitsbergen does not produce vegetables suitable or sufficient for the nourishment of a single human being yet its coasts and adjacent seas have afforded riches and independence to thousands. William Scoresby 1826 Travelling from near and far, we finally reached Longyearbyen, an old mining town in the heart of Spitsbergen for our much anticipated adventure to the high Arctic. Some of us had a few days to conquer the jet lag and explore the colourful town, whilst others came directly from the tarmac to the port via a short town tour of Longyearbyen. We wondered at the miniature garden of wild-flowers outside the museum, as well as the things within it. We were also able to photograph many a picturesque landscape including the surreal (but important) street warning sign depicting a polar bear! Our group is comprised of 40 expeditioners and 10 staff, representing the nations of Australia, Argentina, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. Of course, the largest contingent is our capable crew of 23 Russians. and down the steep narrow stairwells, as we slowly found our way around. Christian welcomed us in the bar, introducing the Aurora team, who we will no doubt get to know a little better over the course of our trip as they educate and guide us around these most northerly parts of the world. Next came the very important life boat briefing. Then the seven short and one long blast from the ship s horn told us it was time to gather at the muster station on Deck 4, before climbing into the orange boats for the lifeboat drill. Imagine what it would be like with another Russian crew in there with us! At 19:00pm the anchor was lifted and we eased away from Longyearbyen, and cruised down Isfjorden. The bright light danced along the surface of the water as we prepared for our adventures in the land of the midnight sun. Dinner time was not far away and the delicious warming meal of spaghetti bolognaise prepared by our chefs Marcos and Tim was enjoyed by all before we headed down to the lecture room to search for the perfect fit in the Great Gumboot Giveaway. All rugged up with our layers of clothes on, we awaited the Zodiacs to transport us to the Polar Pioneer, at anchor in the harbour, and the ship that we will call home for the next 11 days. Christian and Liz greeted us at the dock, before we boarded the big black inflatable chariots. Once onboard the ship, the friendly staff showed us to our cabins and everyone had a few minutes to settle in, unpack or grab a hot cup of tea or coffee from the dining rooms. The main challenge was navigating through the endless corridors, and up

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6 DAY 2 Monday, 21 July 2014 Hornsund: Samarinbreen & Gnålodden Position: 22:15 hours Course: 45 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind Speed: 12 knots Air Temp: 6 C Speed: 11.8 knots Wind Direction: NW Sea Temp: 3 C I have come to the conclusion that the combination of the midnight sun, jet lag, and a blood system awash with adrenaline compound into a melatonin meltdown. Still, the sleepless night was swiftly erased from memory when Christian s dulcet tones came through the cabin speaker at 07:00am today was to be our first in the Arctic! As we woke from our slumber, the Polar Pioneer was making its way into the waters of Hornsund the large body of water near the southern end of Spitsbergen. As we chomped on our toast and porridge, the sun gradually burnt its way though the earlier grey clouds and so it was a brilliant bright landscape that greeted us on the outer decks. After a short briefing about the do s and don ts before we embarked on our Arctic adventures, we were soon swaddled in our many layers of fleece and Goretex. Our first outing of the day was in the waters in front of Samarinbreen a two-kilometre wide wall of cracked and striated glacier ice. This glacier took centre stage of our view, with steep sided mountains in equally impressive supporting roles (particularly with their various mineral-infused red, black and brown hues). We met our first bergy bits and growlers pieces of ice that represent the death of an iceberg perhaps born from the glacier in front of us, perhaps brought here from afar on the myriad currents and winds. Sculpted by Mother Nature herself, the various shapes and colours and sizes of ice sparkled in the bright light and delighted our eyes. Our ears were also delighted with the distinct cracking and popping heard as air bubbles trapped within the ice in an ancient time were released once more to the outside world. As we bobbed along in a peculiar flotilla of black rubber boats, we were soon joined by curious black guillemots paddling furiously in the waters around us. Kittiwakes whirled and soared overhead, and fulmars zipped past with their straight wings locked into efficient gliding position. Meanwhile, our seven hardy paddlers enjoyed their first foray into the waters near the ship in their colourful kayaks. It was a perfect morning for familiarising themselves with their floating-vessels-foradventure, and perfecting their elegant (and sometimes less so) entry and exit techniques. In the afternoon, we cruised down nearby Bugerbukta within our sturdy and warm Polar Pioneer. As well as enjoying the immense and dramatic scenery around us, we were also lucky to have the expert command of Captain Sasha and his officers at the helm. On sighting a bearded seal that was lounging on an ice floe (complete with its captivating 1970 s handlebar moustache-like long whiskers), they gently manoeuvred the ship around the seal without disturbing it into the water. Our late afternoon activity was Eirik s talk on Arctic seabirds. He also captivated us with his arresting images but perhaps more powerful was his story of the fate of the Arctic animals and landscapes that have been becoming so familiar to us. It is sobering to think that so many of the bird species the little auk, the kittiwakes, guillemots and gulls, just to name a few have been struggling to rear their young because of changes in climate, overfishing and pollution in this seemingly pristine environment. Before dinner we all gathered in the bar for Captain s Welcome drinks. We were able to meet Captain Sasha, and enjoy some delectable canapés prepared by our wonderful chefs.

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8 DAY 3 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 Edgeøya/Barentsøya: Dolerittneset & Sundneset Position: 21:15 hours Course: 44 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind Speed: 5 knots Air Temp: 10 C Speed: 10.5 knots Wind Direction: NW Sea Temp: 3 C When seen at a distance, the front part of the head of the young walrus, without tusks, is not unlike the human face. As this animal is in the habit of rearing its head above water, to look at ships, it is not at all improbable but that it may have afforded foundation for some of the stories of mermaids. An Account of the Arctic Regions, William Scoresby 1826 Our long sail overnight had resulted in our arrival at the southeastern island of Edgeøya. Steep-sided dolerite cliffs provided a dramatic background to our morning landing area at Dolerittneset particularly as the light grey cloud moved slowly along their upper escarpments. We all managed our first landing with ease at the sandy beach, and it wasn t too long before we set off in stealth mode. Two lazy walruses had been seen on the adjacent beach, and it was our mission to spy upon them (without them spying us). And so, flanked by Christian and Eirik, we crept quietly towards them as one group. Our slow approach was rewarded with a fabulous view of these tusked beasts of blubber. It was also a morning for foxy friends, with five Arctic foxes seen sleeping, running and playing during our morning s walk. One lucky fox was also seen returning proudly from its morning s tundra sojourn with a barnacle goose in its mouth! As Eirik later told us, it was likely that this feast would be buried until needed during the harsher winter months when food was more scarce. In contrast to the massive vistas around us, we were also able to enjoy the miniature world of Svalbard s colourful flora at our feet. Yellow buttercups, Svalbard pansies, purple and yellow saxifrage, and the cushiony-looking purple and green domes of moss campion filled our camera s viewfinders as we got up close and personal. The near-silent dining rooms at lunch time reflected the voracious appetites we had built up during the morning hours, and shortly after a procession of satisfied smiles and bulging bellies exited for a quick post-prandial nap. It was not long before we were loading into our Zodiacs again, and heading towards the beach at Sundneset on the island of Barentsøya. An undulating tundra dotted with ponds and lakes provided a perfect habitat for a diversity of birdlife, including king eiders, long-tailed ducks, red-throated divers and the more elusive great northern diver. Andrew was also particularly thrilled to spot a grey phalarope. Reports say that he even did a small Happy Dance to celebrate! The local Svalbard reindeer was also evident quite literally from head to tail, with piles of scat through to abandoned antlers. Streaks of their soft white hairs lay scattered across the ground after having been moulted for the warm(!) summer season. After a full day of sights and sounds, birds and beasts, the final piece of excitement was the discovery of a very large, lone paw print in the mud. When had the bear been here? Where had it been going? And was it still in the vicinity!? Answers to these questions remain unknown, but we all hoped that this was a sign that our first bear sighting might soon be nigh.

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10 DAY 4 Wednesday, 23 July 2014 Ice; Ice; Ice! Position: 21:10 hours Course: 15 Barometer: hpa falling Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind: Calm Air Temp: 5 C Speed: 2 knots Sea Temp: 0 C The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around; It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound! Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Rime of the Ancient Mariner I have heard that the Inuit language has more than 100 words for snow. Having spent the day slowly cruising and contemplating this frozen place at the top of the planet, it is my contention that there should be at least this many words (in any language) for ice. It is extraordinary to have seen what is basically just two elements hydrogen and oxygen in so many different shapes, colours, textures, sizes, and patterns. For many of us, our journey into and along the edge of the pack ice epitomised what we had dreamed the Arctic landscape to be. A thick fog lay heavy on the horizon throughout the day, creating a eerie atmosphere within which we strained our eyes and ears for something, or anything, beyond it. Flat plates of ice lay like broken pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle as far as we could see. On some pieces, it looked like someone had emptied packets of giant white sugar cubes into piles. Others were tinted with streaks of yellow and brown local communities of cold-loving algae and diatoms. Sections that had turned in our wake were picked at by diving kittiwakes feeding upon the newly exposed undersides of the ice and its resident polar cod. Our crew of skilled ice-navigators worked tirelessly all day, creeping the Polar Pioneer forward ever so slowly into what appeared to be nothing more than tiny gaps in these thick carpets of sea ice. With each nudge from the bow, the gaps opened wider and wider initiating a spectacular chain reaction of splintering, slicing and shattering. The thunderous noise of the cracks and drawn-out scrrrraaaaaaapes along the ship s metal hull shall too reside in our aural memories. On the bridge, Eirik s and Christian s eye sockets became almost fused to their respective binoculars as they scanned the hazy horizons for the four-legged hero of this ice world Ursus marinus the polar bear. They were joined throughout the day by many an enthusiastic expeditioner as the waves of anticipation continued to expand. Just when, and where would one of these animals appear? Indeed, it took only a few milliseconds for an entire ship of passengers, staff and crew to race to the outer decks and bridge after Eirik made the call that a bear was had been spotted. A young female was found on the ice first lying down and then going about its bear business. We watched as she punched down with all her weight onto what might have been an old ringed seal den under the ice, then scraped away the snow with her big paws. Unfortunately for her no leftovers today. The bear also surprised us by the speed in which she travelled, and certainly thrilled us with her tremendous size and presence. With black nose high in the air, she stopped several times to smell the ship, its inhabitants and all its supplies from oily rags to odorous socks, and from delicious Moroccan tagine dinners to fragrant Merlots. We thought for a while she might come even closer to the ship to investigate, but she was soon on her way again leaving an ship full of excited new bear admirers. It was but a perfect Arctic day.

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12 DAY 5 Thursday, 24 July 2014 Kvitøya: Andréeneset & More Ice Position: 22:50 hours Course: 250 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind: Calm Air Temp: 5 C Speed: 2.8 knots Sea Temp: 0 C There are at least three particular polar bears that reside in the pack ice near the western coast of Kvitøya that had thousands upon thousands of images taken of them today. Indeed, it was a veritable paparazzi that met them on their daily meanders across the ice. The day shall hereby be known as the bear day! It was breakfast as usual when the booming voice from the bridge came down, Christian to the bridge, Christian to the bridge! (Was he in trouble with the Captain again!?!) Our question was soon answered when our intrepid leader beckoned us to put down our spoons, swallow that last mouthful and rush to the outer decks. We had a polar bear within sights! What a thrill to see this female bear at close quarters. And just when we thought she was walking away from us, she lay down on our her back, rolled about a bit, and then hopped up to have another look at us this time within 10 metres or so from our portside. I wonder just who was looking at who? In contrast to the excitement and action, our Zodiac cruise along the icy shores of Kvitøya was breathtakingly beautiful. Stillness was cast over the landscape, with only the flight of the odd Arctic tern, fulmar or eider to remind us of the life within it. The horizon was marked by bold bands of dark grey clouds with the Polar Pioneer ghost ship occasionally dissolving in and out of view amongst a haze of white. Along the shores, grounded icebergs lay in what would be their watery graveyard, while dozens of collided ice floes lay compacted, crushed and crumpled. camera batteries or locate a spare memory card before more shutterbug action was to be had. Not long after lunch, we all spent time admiring a strong, thicknecked male that paraded near us. And then later, another female was seen swimming close by the ship. With our bathing beauty s curiosity peaked, she soon altered her course for us and climbed easily out onto a nearby ice floe. Not only did she continue to get closer and closer and closer to the ship s hull, she also demonstrated her rather endearing technique of ridding her thick fur of excess water by rolling on her back, and sliding forward on her belly chinfirst. Again, the entire human contents of the ship crammed onto the bow, balancing and leaning and dangling on and from every possible inch of viewing area as we marvelled at this hero of the Arctic. During the afternoon, Christian delivered his informative and timely presentation on sea ice. We learnt of the incredible strength of sea ice (who knew that it only had to be 40 cm thick to drive a truck on?), regardless of its almost honeycomb-like composition of minute brine channels. Christian also deftly related the dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice observed over the past decades, and the unfortunate implications of this on all members of its intricate food web. It has been a truly remarkable day here in this very special and very remote place in the world. Words seem ineffectual in describing what we have seen, felt and experienced. But what is for certain, is that none of us will forget this day in a hurry. The plan to look for bears on the pack ice in the afternoon did not go unrewarded! Indeed, we barely had time to recharge our

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16 DAY 6 Friday, 25 July 2014 Nordaustlandet: Bråsvellbreen & Torellneset Position: 21:15 hours Course: 240 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind Speed: 5 knots Air Temp: 5 C Speed: 4 knots Wind Direction: W Sea Temp: 2 C We may have all seen glaciers before, but to wake and see the 160-kilometre length of Bråsvellbreen out one s porthole was something else! In order to view this enormously wide glacier in full, it was one s head that had to turn, rather than just one s eyes. It was another still morning as we left the ship for our Zodiac cruise and paddle, and rugged up in all our layers it felt positively warm! With cameras and binoculars at the ready, we slowly cruised along the glacier front and admired the cracks, caves and iridescent blue colours seeping from within it. Kittiwakes foraged on the waters close to the glacier front, and fulmars soared above our heads. The glacier reminded us that it was indeed a dynamic beast, with a loud calving occurring just in front of the kayakers. Tons of ice crashed into the sea creating an impressive wave that (thankfully) dissipated quickly in the vast waters around it. As we motored (or paddled) around the corner, a huge area dotted with icebergs of all shapes and sizes came into view. Born from Bråsvellbreen, many had already grounded within sight of it and were slowly being sculpted into spectacular shapes by the currents, tides, waves and wind around them. Stripes of blues in the sides representing layers of accumulated snow and subsequent compressed glacier ice showed us which way might have once been up. Similarly, various splodges and stripes of rock and moraine helped us imagine the pieces of ice once part of the glacier side or bottom, slowly scraping and collecting these organic brown decorations. Each berg told us a different story of its life so far. They also triggered our imaginations with each of us remarking on the different faces and animals we could see within them. Christian even claimed to have seen a delicious chocolate -flavoured ice -cream (Swiss chocolate, of course). The kayakers paddled strongly amongst the bergs particularly enjoying the crackling noises of the surrounding fields of brash ice, and the towering icy sculptures from their water s eye view. Back on board, the Polar Pioneer continued its way westwards along the coast of Nordaustlandet, and as we waited for the call for lunch a brilliant sun blazed down onto the decks. Goretex-clad expeditioners were seen to be taking a rather meerkat-like stance on the bow. Our afternoon adventure was at Torellneset a barren, polar desert landscape surrounded by low mountains and glacier valleys. After a short (but challenging) walk across the gravel plains in a biting and constant wind, we were delighted to spend some time with a group of at least 50 male walrus huddled together in a mass of blubber and tusks. It was not long before we saw a number of their colleagues returning to the beach after their two or three-day long sessions of gorging on clams. A few swam down and popped their heads up to have a look at us then returning to the shores closest to their huddle. An impressive adult male soon hauled his large mass out of the water, taking only a few laborious wriggles at a time before having to rest prostrate on the sand. On reaching the others, he used his large pointed tusks to full advantage, striking the bodies of the smaller males that were reclining in his preferred patch. It was certainly a way to assert a dominance that none were going to challenge!

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18 DAY 7 Saturday, 26 July 2014 Hinlopenstretet: Alkefjellet & Palanderbukta Position: 21:45 hours Course: 245 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind Speed: 3 knots Air Temp: 5 C Speed: 8.5 knots Wind Direction: W Sea Temp: 1 C Having visited the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet this morning, I have started to suspect that it was actually here that Alfred Hitchcock got the inspiration for his film, The Birds. The towering basalt cliffs provided an extraordinary number of small ledges, outcrops and crevices for an even more extraordinary number of Brünnich s guillemots. They crammed onto every available perch from sea level right up to the 380-metre high peaks of the pink guano-stained cliffs. From a distance, the air looked like it was filled with swarms of small black bees or mosquitoes. From below the cliffs, birds flew in and out and around with purpose some with flopping silver fish in their beaks their flapping wings whipping fast past our heads and ears. We were so enthralled that we were unperturbed even by the white, wet droppings that rained down upon our heads. On the water, vast flotillas of birds preened and cleaned, paddled and floated. Small rafts of curious guillemots paddled over to the Zodiacs to take a look at us. Amongst the huge number of Brünnich s guillemots, the occasional black guillemot was spied, with some conveniently swimming side-by-side to allow us to pick the difference between these two closely-related species. Thunderous waterfalls ran out from under the glacier ice balanced at the top of the cliffs, adding to the already cacophonous noise emanating from the avian cliff dwellers. Small patches of green moss dotted the rock; and where areas of ice and snow remained, swathes of photosynthetic pink and yellow snow algae added to the palette of hues. Bruno one of our many avid photographers snapped happily away with his camera, and stopped at one point to review his images on screen. But what was this white bear in the corner of his photograph? Indeed, he had found us a young polar bear hungry for some bird-flavoured snacks. The able rock-climber moved skilfully down and around the outcrops towards the helpless chicks, and steadfast and protective guillemot parents. With several swift moves over the next 20 minutes or so, the colony was one, then two, and three birds less. The morning had also been a spectacular one for our paddling friends. They had been up and out before we d even had our breakfast, and had made their way far south down the coast before enjoying an easier northwards float below the cliffs. Ever the adventurers, Al convinced them to paddle (and push!) their way through a small slot within the cliffs that eventually opened up to (slightly) bigger waters. A break on the shore for some warming hot chocolate and snacks was taken within a multi-person bivvy bag their little tented enclosure perfect for a catered pow wow out of the wind. After thawing ourselves out with soup and mushroom bruschetta, we were soon back up on the bridge or out on the bow to view our first whales! A group of 4 or 5 fin whales moved about the waters near the ship feeding and diving. Later in the afternoon, Christian made an extremely exciting announcement blue whales were off the bow! These mega marine mammals the largest animal in the world are a very rare sight indeed, and we were blessed to spend over 40 minutes with three or the estimated 1,500 individuals of the north. It is said that their aorta is so wide that a human could swim down it, and that its heart is the size of a VW Beetle! Our last hurrah another blue whale feeding about the ship in the late evening. Certainly a perfect thing to take with us as we headed off to the land of Morpheus.

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20 DAY 8 Sunday, 27 July 2014 Norskøya & Alkekongen (Magdalenefjord) Position: 23:35 hours Location: Magdalenefjord Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind: Calm Air Temp: 8 C Speed: At anchor Sea Temp: 1 C Civilization began to lose its zest for me. I began to long for the great white desolation the long, long Arctic day, the silence, the vastness of the great white lonely North. And back I went. Robert Peary We received the most marvellous gift from our kayaking colleagues this morning! The paddlers were up before all of the rest of us again, and after paddling a short way from the ship had discovered a polar bear mother and cub on nearby in Norskøya. And so we responded with haste to Christian s animated voice. We rapidly finished our morning ablutions, and were loaded into the Zodiacs in a record 15 minutes time (my, how we ve improved since Day 1). Any remains of a pre-caffeine bleariness were soon blasted away by a surge of adrenaline (and a shot of cold wind in the face). The mother and young cub were moving swiftly along the shoreline, with the mother occasionally pausing to look at us. The cub seemed torn between wanting to stop and have a look at the strange fleece-clad animals floating on the water, and stay close to it s mothers heels. Near the end of the island, mother and cub raised their noses to the air to smell us. We raised the corners of our mouths in glee. Later in the morning, Eirik s lecture on whales and Norwegian commercial whaling was, as always, extremely interesting, engaging and peppered with his outstanding photography. The majestic waters of Magdalenefjord beckoned us after lunch. The temperature could almost have been described as balmy despite the low clouds disguising the sharp, pointed peaks of the surrounding mountains. They eventually lifted a little, and we were able to see just why this land had been named Spitsbergen. After a stretch of the legs at Gravnesetoden to view the nearby glacier, we cruised across the water to Alkekongen. Here it was only a short (but steep) climb over the lush green moss beds on the side of the mountain to reach what was the nesting grounds of tens of thousands of little auks. Sitting quietly, these small birds soon landed all amongst us on the rocks. Masses of auks flew overhead sometimes getting so close to our heads we could feel the wind from the furious beating of their little wings. Even for those non-birders among us, it was hard not to be enamoured by these colourful characters of the Arctic. Every so often we had to remind ourselves to look up from the auk-themed goings-on at our feet and take in the sweeping vistas across the fjord and glaciers below. With still perfect weather, it was simply breathtaking. Meanwhile, the kayakers had had their own adventure, paddling up the fjord and also taking a short stroll to see the glacier. Alas, it is reported that this short stroll soon turned into a group activity a rescue of Dan who was found bogged knee deep in the mud. Dinner had been advertised as Chef s Surprise and indeed it was. The ever-appetising flavours of a barbeque delighted our tastebuds and the food kept coming and coming and coming. A big thank you to Marcos and Tim! And of course, thanks to Elena s glühwein we also eased our way into fun and frivolity as the finalé of a fantastic day.

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22 DAY 9 Monday, 28 July 2014 Virgohamna (Danskøya) & Ytre Norskøya Position: 23:15 hours Course: 175 Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind Speed: 5 knots Air Temp: 9 C Speed: 7.3 knots Wind Direction: N Sea Temp: 3 C We have striven, we have sought and we have found. Of course our little expedition is not in the same realm as those of the great polar explorers of the past but it is a little taste and sets us apart from 99% of the people we meet every day. Perhaps we can retain some of the beauty, serenity and timelessness of the far northern world we have travelled in. Better still that we can take it back to our everyday lives. Ian Collier, Aurora passenger, Arctic season 2005 We woke to another perfect Svalbard morning in the protected waters between Amsterdamøya and Danskøya, and it was not long after breakfast that we motored towards the shores of Danskøya and the historic site of Virgohamna. The rocky beaches of Virgohamna proved to be an opportunity to learn more about the lives of the whalers that worked there from the 1600s. We walked amongst the remains of their wooden buildings set among the many blubber ovens, now blackened and hardened circular ruins along the shoreline. This was also the place where Andrée started his balloon expedition in 1897 an ill-fated quest to fly to the north pole that still sparks our imaginations to this day. As a second adventure for the morning, we were also able to walk a short distance to visit a group of harbour seals. They had each picked out a preferred exposed rock at low tide, and balanced with admirable poise on their bellies. We also watched in awe as they occasionally levitated their blubbery bodies horizontally in the air to re-positioned themselves into a spot more conducive to a scratch or contented snooze. The kayakers cruised past these seals towards an island filled with hundreds of nesting Arctic terns before heading back to the ship for some fortifying lunch. (Indeed, we all consumed platter after platter of delicious pizzas that Marcos and Tim had prepared for us). During lunch the Polar Pioneer had cruised back towards Ytre Norskøya. Its high summit still tempted the walkers amongst us (this destination having been delayed previously due to an unanticipated encounter with our polar bear mum and cub!) The climb to the top was rewarded with expansive vistas across the north-western islands of Spitsbergen, and it is reported that if one squinted and looked hard enough, you could see Santa and his reindeer at the not-so-far-away north pole! The joy of the Atlantic puffin in all its rainbow coloured breeding plumage - was also experienced high up on the cliffs of Ytre Norskøya. The meanderers that explored the rocky shores below revelled in the luminescent greens and oranges of the mosses and lichen, and revelled in the songs of little auk, snow buntings and Arctic terns. Later in the afternoon, our very own Naturalist Snowy was anointed with a white and wet guano gift from a hovering and slightly irate tern. The kayakers took their afternoon taxi ride to the sandy beach of Sallyhamna, and then paddled deep into the bay towards the glacier. The glassy calm conditions unfortunately did not last, and it the way home was not quite as easy. Still, triumph they did through the choppy waves and increasing wind.

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24 DAY 10 Tuesday, 29 July 2014 Lilliehöökbreen & Fjortende Julibreen Position: 16:00 hours Location: Krossfjorden Barometer: hpa steady Latitude: N Longitude: E Wind: Calm Air Temp: 12 C Speed: At anchor Sea Temp: 1 C What perfect weather greeted us on the last day of what has been a perfect voyage. The brash-ice filled waters below the 7km wide Lilliehöökbreen was the focus for our morning. The sun quickly burnt through the last remaining clouds, and soon we were surrounded by gargantuan reflections of the surrounding peaks. And as if to emphasise the sheer scale of the landscape, we strained to see the tiny kayakers in the distance as they paddled along the glacier front The glacier reminded it of its dynamic nature, with deep thunderous rumbles and gun-shot cracks echoing about us. Huge calvings threw ice into the air and sea below, and we all marvelled at the power involved in the birth of new icebergs. These blue-hued icebergs, sculpted and crafted, reflected the light, and in some pieces we could see each individual and ancient air bubble. As we turned off our Zodiac engines, the glass-like tinkling, popping and scratching sounds of the brash ice provided aural delight. Back on board, a line up of 22 foolhardy souls decided to cool off on this balmy summer s day in the Arctic. The rest of us found a position along the outer decks to view the plungers (with incredulity) launch themselves off a perfectly dry and warm ship into the freezing cold waters (0 ) whilst also doing their best to avoid the pieces of ice floating past. With the sun still blazing down, a quick reapplication of sunscreen was required before our afternoon at Fjortende Julibreen (or 14 th of July glacier). We cruised along the cliffs to the left of the glacier, and with great delight came across the cheery-faced puffin (not the technical name!). Perching on the tiny ledges they bobbed their heads up and down above us, and occasionally flew out and around over the waters with their little orange legs dangling comically. High above us the towering orange and green-coloured bluffs appeared to also have some large white patches on them. Upon drawing our binoculars to our eyes, these soon became visible as thousands of nesting kittiwakes! Along the shore, glaucous gulls tended to their fluffy grey-brown chicks, and closer to the foot of the cliffs, hordes of barnacle and pink-footed geese gathered. We were even lucky enough to see a small herd of Svalbard reindeer meander along the grassy slopes. Our last landing allowed the walkers to stride purposefully toward the lateral moraine of the glacier, eventually to stand atop and gaze over the expansive vista. The nature walkers wandered among lush pastures of moss, small ponds and steep cliffs. We finished off our last day on the Polar Pioneer and with our new group of friends in the bar at Captain s Farewell drinks, and another delicious dinner prepared by our chefs Marcos and Tim (and who could forget that rich chocolate mousse?). The finalé for our day was a slideshow put together by Andrew and Dr John what a wonderful way to reflect on our journey through the wild, beautiful and humbling places of our Spitsbergen Odyssey.

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26 DAY 11 Wednesday, 30 July 2014 Longyearbyen Position: 08:00 hours Latitude: N Speed: At port Longitude: E Wind Speed: 2 knots Wind Direction: E Barometer: hpa steady Air Temp: 10 C Sea Temp: 4 C 10ºE 20ºE 30ºE Spitsbergen Odyssey July 2014 ARCTIC OCEAN Sjuøyane 80ºN Moffen Lagøya 12 8 Storøya 6 7 Kvitøya SPITSBERGEN NORDAUSTLANDET PRINS KARLS FORLAND 77ºN Forlandsundet Ny Ålesund Wijdefjorden Svenskøya Kongsøya Abeløya Bellsund Hornsund Isfjorden 1 Longyearbyen Sørkapp Storfjorden BARENTSØYA 5 4 EDGEØYA Barents Sea Sites visited 1. Longyearbyen 2. Samarinbreen (Zodiac cruise/kayak) 3. Burgerbukta (ship cruise; bearded seal) 4. Kapp Lee/Dolerittneset (walrus; foxes) 5. Sundneset 6. Pack ice near Kvitøya 7. Andréeneset (Zodiac cruise) 8. Pack ice near Kvitøya (bears) 9. Bråsvellbreen (glacier front; icebergs) 10. Torellneset (walrus; polar desert) 11. Alkefjellet (bird cliff & polar bear) 12. North of Hinlopenstretet (whales) 13. Indre Norskøya (bear with cub) 14. Magdalenefjord: Gravneset 15. Alkekongen Hopen (little auks; BBQ) 16. Virgohamna (whaling remains) 17. Ytre Norskøya (summit walk) 18. Lilliehöökbreen (glacier) 19. Fjortende Julibreen (14 July glacier) 20. Longyearbyen Total Distance: 1,162 nautical miles Furthest North: 80 o 16 N SVALBARD km

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28 Kayaking Log BY Al Bakker PADDLERS: Dan Dahlgren Sue Meure Anna Hutchinson Donna Nicholson Chuck Ludlam Linda Tomkins David McKeown Dr John Barry for one paddle. DAY 1: Longyearbyen Boarded ship, departed Longyearbyen at 17:00 hours. DAY 2: Samarinbreen; Hornsund AM: Partly sunny with high wind clouds. Introductory paddle along the ice front with some loose brash ice. Small calvings in the background kept us alert. 7 paddlers, 5.62km. PM no paddle: Strong winds in Hornsund and low tide meant difficult conditions to get into Gnålodden so we did a ship cruise instead. DAY 2: Dolerittneset; Sundneset AM: We set off from the ship in calm conditions with a 1-knot current. At shore we had time to view two walrus, and we had a small band of reindeer follow us with some curiosity. Our vividcoloured dry suits stood out in the muted background. The wind built up so by the time we headed back to the ship it was a cold 10-knot wind and lumpy surface conditions around the ship this made for an adventurous exit. 5 paddlers, 5km. PM: We paddled across to the shore and followed the coast to the east, stopping for close views of a cascading river tumbling down to the sea. The shallow sand bars in front made for tricky navigating into shore. We carried on past some orange-red lichen covered cliffs before returning in a headwind. We stopped at a castle-like outcrop of rocks for tea and views of the surrounding tundra; afterwards discovering several piles of bear scat and large footprints. 5 paddlers, 6.1km. DAY 4: Pack ice Pack ice No paddle: ship cruising all day. DAY 5: Kvitøya AM: No paddle in the morning. Zodiac cruise. PM: Pack Ice Afternoon ship cruise. The fog lifted enough for a Zodiac cruise at Kvitøya. Bears on ice and on shore made for good cruising. The afternoon saw close up encounters with bears coming right up to the ship. DAY 6: Bråsvellbreen; Torellneset AM: Wonderful paddle amongst an array of icebergs strewn in front of the ice cliffs. The paddling commenced with a brilliant calving opening a curtain to 70 metres of blue ice wall behind. The wind came up at the end so it was nice to escape to the ship. 7 paddlers, 8.5km. PM No paddle: 15-knot winds at the start made it easy to forego the paddle, so it we all joined the shore party observing a big gathering of perhaps 50 walrus. DAY 7: Alkefjellet AM: Fog surrounded the ship at 05:00 hours but soon it cleared and we set off for an early start at 06:30 hours. A cold southerly wind blew us from south to north on a wonderful cruise under the bird cliffs. We stopped for a warm up in a bothy bag at the far end before paddling back to the ship. 7 paddlers, 10.5 km. PM No paddle: Poor visibility encouraged a ship cruise with some fantastic fin whale and blue whale sightings. DAY 8: Ytre Norskøya; Magdalenefjord AM: Grey skies but only slight wind so we set off to circumnavigate the island. Upon reaching the shore we spotted a mother bear and her first year cub ambling along the shore. A fantastic way to wake up following the two bears along a rocky shoreline for nearly an hour before they finally slid into the water Ytre Norskøya to swim to the next island. 7 paddlers, 8.9 km. PM: Enchanting paddle through brash ice in front of the Magdalena glacier and then stopped for a shore hike up to a secondary flat glacier to put our legs on terra ice. Capped off by a swim in our dry suits next to the ship. 6 paddlers, 8.8 km. DAY 9: Virgohamna; Sallyhamna AM: Short paddle to the ballooning site and tour and then cruised amongst harbour seals before setting foot on Arctic Tern Island. Covered in nesting terns we had a great morning tea before heading back to the ship. 7 paddlers, 7.7 km. PM: We took advantage of the taxi service to carry kayaks and us to the trappers hut at Sallyhamna. A wonderful, quiet cruise into the inner fjord and glacier face on glassy calm water. As we left the outer harbour we pushed forward in a stiff wind to return to the ship. 4 paddlers, 10 km. DAY 10: Lillehöökbreen; Fjortende Julibreen (14 th July Glacier) AM: We awoke to a sparkling landscape with the surrounding sea dotted with small brash ice under a brilliant blue sky. No wind called for an early paddle start. We cruised across the wide glacial front witnessing numerous calvings with several house size blocks of ice tumbling into the sea. A stunning paddle to finish our adventures in Spitsbergen. 8 paddlers, 8.4 km. Day 11: Longyearbyen Disembarkation day. DISTANCE PADDLED: 79.9 KILOMETRES IN 10 PADDLES

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32 polar plunge

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35 Flower species English Name Scientific Name Alpine bistort Polygonum viviparum Arctic cottongrass Eriophorum scheuchzeri Arctic mouse-ear chickweed Cerastium arcticum Bog saxifrage Saxifraga hirculus Chickweed Stellaria crassipes Drooping saxifrage Fringed sandwort Saxifraga cernua Arenaria pseudofrigida Drooping saxifrage Alpine bistort Purple saxifrage Arctic cottongrass Hairy lousewort Pedicularis hirsuta Moss campion Silene acaulis Mountain avens Dryas octopetaladryas octopetala Mountain sorrel Oxyria digyna Polar dandelion Taraxacum brachyceras Purple saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia Pygmy buttercup Ranunculus pygmaeus Scurvy-grass Cochlearia officinalis Tufted saxifrage Saxifraga cespitosa Yellow arctic whitlow-grass Draba bellii Fringed sandwort Moss campion Mountain avens Saxifrage Bog saxifrage Svalbard Poppy 33

36 mammal species Log MAMMAL Species July Arctic Fox x x Svalbard Reindeer x x Polar Bear x x x x Ringed Seal x x x x Bearded Seal x x x Harp Seal x x x x Harbour Seal x Walrus x x x Minke Whale Blue Whale Fin Whale x x x

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38 Bird species log Bird Species July Red-throated Diver x x Great Northern Diver x Northern Fulmar x x x x x x x x x x x Pink-footed Goose x x Barnacle Goose x x x x Brent Goose x Common Eider x x x x x x x x x King Eider Long-tailed Duck (Oldsquaw) x x Purple Sandpiper x x x Grey Phalarope x Arctic Skua x x x x x x Great Skua x x x x Sabine s Gull x Glaucous Gull x x x x x x x x x x x Kittiwake x x x x x x x x x x x Ivory Gull x x x x Arctic Tern x x x x x x x x x x Brünnich s Guillemot x x x x x x x x x x x Black Guillemot x x x x x x x x x Little Auk x x x x x x x x x x x Atlantic Puffin x x x x x Snow Bunting x x x x x

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40 Expeditioners Bruno Aeberli Jacqueline Booz Dan Dahlgren Eddy Gauntlett Anna Hutchison Pam Kenway Sybil Marcus Byrom Mee Annamarie Perlesz LouAnne Stabb Michael Aw Sandy Clague Jane Dudley Nils Gronningsaeter Helen Irvine Chuck Ludlam Peter McKellar Sue Meure Patricia Roche Linda Tomkins Belinda Baccarini Jan Corkran Anne Franks Ken Harris Gun-Britt Jonsson Sandra Luntz David McKeown Donna Nicholson Robyn Sim Robyn Tucker Maria Bazzigalupi Larry Corkran David Franks Vivien Harris Göte Jonsson Barb Main David Mee Amaryll Perlesz Ted Stabb John Wilson

41 Expedition STAFF Polar Pioneer Crew photo CREDITS Expedition Leader: Christian Genillard Master: Alexander (Sasha) Evgenov Able Seaman: Sergey Ushakov Michael Aw Anna Huthchinson Assistant Expedition Leader: Liz Pope Chief Mate: Bogdan Schmalko Eduard Skarina Bruno Aeberli Chuck Ludlam Naturalist: Eirik Gronningsaeter Second Mate: Roman Aleksakhin Alexey Rusalovskiy Al Bakker barbara Main Graeme Snowy Snow Third Mate: Yury Matrosov Seaman: Alexandr (Sasha) Kiselev John Barry Liz Pope BirdLife Australia Guest Naturalist: Andrew Silcocks Radio Operator: Maxim Chilikin Motorman: Ivan Bazhenov Maria Bazzigalupi Andrew Silcocks Doctor: John Barry Chief Engineer: Vladimir Arefev Artur Ropotov Elena Bezgodova Ted Stabb Chef: Marcos Benavides Second Engineer: Viacheslav Fedorov Head Stewardess: Alona Usatenko Jacqueline Booz Elena Wimberger Tim Moore Third Engineer: Denis Strelkov Stewardess: Diana Babaeva Christian Genillard David Walker Hotel Manager: Elena Wimberger Fourth Engineer: Roman Novozhilov Elena Bezgodova Eirik Gronningsaeter Kayaking Master: Al Bakker Electrical Engineer: Viacheslav Deviatkin Irina Minurova Boatswain: Sergey Khynku Galina Alexandrova Words compiled by Liz Pope. Russian Crew Chef: Dmitry Savelyev 39

42 Adventure with us Antarctica & South Georgia Wild Scotland Alaska s Inside Passage Ecuador & Galapagos Kimberley Coast Intimate, educational, small group voyages to some of the world s wildest and most remote destinations, aboard quality expedition vessels. Protected waterways beneath spectacular, glacier-draped mountains, penguins, seals, whales, historic sites and scientific stations. Abandoned castles, exquisite abbeys, stone age villages and haunting Neolithic relics. Breeding seals and Europe s largest seabird colonies. Wildlife-rich fjords, calving glaciers, harbour seals and humpback playgrounds. Traditional Native American culture and heritage. Amazon s rainforest tribes and sacred cultures, Andean volcanoes and shorelines of marine iguanas, giant tortoises and sea lions. Australia s wildest frontier boasts terracotta cliffs and ancient rock paintings. Island hop in search of turtles, crocodiles and whales. Our other destinations include: Russian Coast, Papua New Guinea, Patagonia, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.