After a very good dinner in the main restaurant and a long day of activities, we decided to forgo the post dinner program and get some much needed rest as Seabourn Venture continued the journey to Svalbard
Sunday July 31, 2022
Under overcast skies we approached the Svalbard Archipelago. The seas were relatively calm, nearly flat as we detoured to pick up a pilot near Longyearbyen. Our destination today is Poolepynten, on Prins Karls Forland where we hope to go ashore near a walrus colony for photos. Patrick is also going to do some kayaking in addition to seeing the walrus colony.
It is possible to track the ship on AIS at sites like marinetraffic.com, since the protected Svalbard archipelago is highly regulated and patrolled, with numerous AIS base stations. Similar to the southern polar regions, group size ashore is limited to 50 people at a time, so we will go ashore in color groups that were assigned on embarkation day. The first color group changes each day so every group has a chance to be first.
We arrived at our destination, but alas there were NO walruses, so the ship headed east to Spitzbergen Island to a large tidewater glacier in St Johnsfjordern where will have zodiac tours and a kayaking session. Patrick elected to do a kayak tour, and when arriving at the site, proceeded
to enter the kayak. Patrick was immediately requested to exit since a polar bear was sighted on the beach headed for the kayaks.
We followed the bear and the rest of the ship’s zodiacs followed in behind when they heard we had sighted the bear. We had a lot of time watching the bear before we finally headed back to where the kayaks were anchored and the bear reappeared behind us.
Monday, August 1, 2022
Texas Bar and Monacobreen
Satellite cover is poor especially deep in the fjords, so we have little coverage except at night while we are moving from place to place.
Going all the way to the northernmost tip of Spitzbergen, at about 80 degrees north, we then headed back South and anchored in front of Texas Bar at 79 degrees 36 Minutes North. We are now about 650 miles from the North Pole. The weather was overcast, calm winds and a temperature of 45 degrees. Patrick kayaked in the morning and then went ashore at Texas Bar, named after a hut with a row of bottles. The hut was originally built as a hunters hut and has bunks, etc. The tradition is to bring two bottles and only take one drink, so the bar continues to grow. It is really isolated. There was actually a sailboat anchored in the next bay, which left partway through the morning.
Just a few miles further south is a large glacier named after Prince Albert 1 of Monaco. This afternoon’s activities include zodiac tours and another kayak excursion.
When we arrived at Monacobreen there were actually 5 glaciers in a ring around the ship and the kayaks toured around the eastern portion of the bay.
Tuesday, August 6
When we awoke, Seabourn Venture was steaming north towards the edge of the pack ice. It was very foggy and the the ship carefully approached the pack ice, with visibility only a few hundred yards. This was at a latitude of 80 degrees 45 minutes north. Altering course, Seabourn Venture skirted the edge of the pack ice and finally penetrated a band of ice at 81 degrees north. We continued north and after breaking through pack ice for a few miles, stopped at 82 degrees north, further than any other Carnival Corporation ship. We had signed up for wine tasting at 1430 and it was a unique experience to be tasting wines as the ship crunched through the ice.
Captain Alex opened up the bow platforms, normally reserved for crew docking and anchoring, to passengers and crew as we moved through the pack ice at 2-3 knots, shoving the ice flows aside or splitting them apart.
At a little before 1700, Captain Alex stopped the ship and we drifted for the night in the pack ice at 82 degrees North Latitude, only 480 NM from the North Pole. Celebrating with our second formal night of the cruise. Spectacular!!! We will spend the night in the pack ice and start looking for polar bears.
At this latitude we have no satellite coverage, so no internet.
At midnight a female polar bear approached the ship. A quiet announcement was made and many guests and crew heard it and got great photos and videos of the bear, until it was spooked by some kind of noise from the ship. Miriam and I slept through the announcement, along with the ship’s photographer. We were fortunate to have another guest airdrop their iPhone video to us so we have some record of the encounter. We will have another chance later in the voyage.
About 0815 we headed through the pack ice back to Svalbard for the rest of our trip. We had drifted 3 NM further north during the night, so we were 477 NM from the North Pole. The sound of the ship pushing through the ice floes was like a constant roll of thunder. When we hit larger floes the ship would shudder. Seabourn Venture was able to make 3-4 knots through ice 2-4 feet thick with floes up to 150 feet in diameter.
At noon the ship stopped and launched 2 zodiacs for the polar plunge event. Any guests and contractor were able to participate. It was not our event!
Continuing SE, we are headed for 2 smaller islands to the east of the main Spitzbergen Archipelago. The first island is Storoya, where we finally spotted walruses and more polar bears.
The second island is Kvitoya Island (or White Island), since it almost entirely covered by a glacier. There is a monument there to the ill-fated Solomon Andree Balloon expedition to the North Pole. Their remains were not discovered until 1931 since this island is seldom visited. The balloon expedition only made it to 83 degrees 50 minutes North before the design flaws became evident that forced the team to land on sea ice and make their way to Kvitoya where they perished.