Jan Mayen Island Monday, August 15, 2022 After two days of relatively calm seas and overcast skies, and finally sunset and sunrise as we head southwest, we arrived at Jan Mayen Island at 0700. Beerenberg shrouded in mistJan Mayen I…
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Svalbard Summary For the last two weeks we have circumnavigated the Svalbard archipelago and seen some amazing sights. From polar bears on the beach to polar bears on the pack ice. Walruses on the beach and swimming clo…
Thursday, August 11, 2022 The ship arrived at Ny London in Kongfjorden on schedule and Patrick was one of the kayakers who practiced paddling through brash ice coming off the nearby glacier. Ny London was the site of a failed marb…
Svalbard – second edition
Monday, August 8, 2022
After the late departure from Longyearbyen, we sailed for Gravnesodden, Svalbard near the northwestern tip of Spitzbergen Island. The distance is not large, about 173 NM, but we have a partial day at sea before we arrive. As we sailed north, the weather turned gray and rainy. The morning was taken up with the mandatory AECO briefings and a bio-security inspection of all our outerwear going ashore. There was also a repeat of the kayak operational and safety briefing. There are a lot more people on this voyage, very noticeable in the Discovery Center and all the restaurants.
Internet service once again was non-existant deep in the fjords.
Gravnesodden is on Magdalenefjordet and was the site for whaling operations beginning in the 1600’s. There are the remains of blubber furnaces and also 134 graves, hence the name Gravnes. There is also a hunter’s hut we can visit. Patrick will be kayaking once again, but the temperature is predicted to be only 35 degrees, so much colder than two days ago.
The kayaking turned out to be warmer than expected, with sightings of barnacle geese, arctic terns, fulmars, glaucous gulls, and guillamots, and even a pin tail duck. Ashore we visited the remains of blubber ovens from the early whaling era and could view the cemetery where 134 men died during the early years. Many of the remains are now gone due to the permafrost floating the remains to the surface where either weather or polar bears destroyed them. The area where the graves were located is fenced off and protected from visitors, but photos can still be taken.
It was a busy evening, with the Captain’s welcome reception, the first formal night of this voyage, and then dinner. We found out there are only 192 revenue passengers on board, compared to 148 on the first voyage. The USA has the largest complement accounting for 134 guests. The crew numbers 249, from 45 countries. In addition, there are a number of contractors still on board to address technical issues should they arise.
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Seabourn Venture cruised overnight in calm sea conditions to Texas Bar and Monocobreen. The final approach was in dense fog. We passed a Hurtigruten expedition ship anchored further out in the fjord, as well as a sailboat, which eventually anchored at Texas Bar in front of our ship. Landings were delayed due to the dense fog.
After about one hour, the fog cleared enough to go ashore and do Kayaking. Today Patrick kayaked with a crew member and departed from the beach for the first time. Weather was calm, but still a little foggy, so the excursion to Monacobreen was cancelled and the ship headed for the far north. We arrived at 81 degrees north about 2130 but did not immediately enter the pack ice.
At midnight we were at 81 degrees 45 minutes north and then headed back southwest looking for the edge of the pack ice.
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Patrick was up at 0530 and in the bow lounge as Seabourn Venture entered the pack ice. At 0600 we were out on the bow when a polar bear was spotted having just freshly killed a bearded seal. The ship stopped and we were able to view the gory aftermath as the polar bear first stripped the blubber from the carcass and started to work on the flesh.
Proceeding further into the pack ice, we all searched for more polar bears, but none showed up. At noon the ship stopped for the “polar plunge” where a number of brave souls jumped into the 29 degree water north of 81 degrees. Patrick passed up the opportunity once again.
Continuing south, the ship stopped once again as another polar bear was on the ice and then, unbelievably, a third polar bear was on the ice with a fresh kill, so once again the ship stopped and we all got the opportunity to observe the rather bloody feeding scene.
The ship is now out of the pack ice and headed south for an encounter at Ny London in the morning and 14 July glacier in the afternoon.
August 6, 2022
Today we had two landings, once in the morning at Gnalodden, Hornsund and the second at Burgerbukta, Hornsund. These two locations are in the southernmost fjords in Svalbard and are characterized by high cliffs, seabirds and tidewater glaciers.
Gnalodden was our first stop and Patrick kayaked in the morning. The kayak tour started out windy and choppy, with winds to 25 knots. We headed down the coast, going with the wind, dodging the occasional iceberg and a number of submerged rocks where the waves were breaking. Fortunately we did not have to paddle back upwind since our escort boat picked us up in the lee of the last point before the open ocean.
Returning to the landing site we were able to go ashore where there was another hunter’s hut and a massive seabird colony on the cliffs above us. Some people were attacked by skuas protecting their territory, but Patrick’s bright orange drysuit was apparently not a good target. There was a overhang with unique acoustic properties, when entering, all noise stopped and you could not hear the birds at all. Leaving the overhang, the sounds of the seabirds returned. The vegetation was the usual moss and lichens.
Returning to the ship we had lunch as the ship traveled the short distance to Burgerbukta and a large tidewater glacier that was calving. Patrick headed back out on a kayak tour, one of only 6 people that showed up. We paddled under partly sunny skies and glassy calm seas among the iceberg debris from the glacier. Near the end of the tour we came upon a bearded seal sleeping on an ice floe and were able to just sit quietly only a couple of kayak lengths away. We also just sat in our kayaks with our eyes closed and listened to the sound of the air bubbles escaping from the bergs all around us.
Returning to the ship, most guests hurried with their packing before the final briefing and crew farewell, as well as watching the video the ship produced for each guest. The video is on Onedrive in the cloud, and we will have to wait until we return to download it.
The Seabourn Venture set sail for Longyearbyen where we will be alongside the pier for disembarkation and embarkation. The 28 in-transit passengers will be going on a bus tour in the afternoon, staying out of the way of the new guests. We will be masked up for everything once again since we have been in a relatively safe bubble for the last 10 days.
The tour was short, but the museum was worth the visit. Since it was Sunday, the stores were closed until 3PM, so no shopping. We drove by the entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, but were not allowed to approach.
The ship departed 1 ½ hours late due to lost luggage, but we finally left at 1830. Our destination tomorrow is Gravenesodden, where we hope to see more wildlife.
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.
July 27 – Embarkation Day
Check-in for the Seabourn Venture was moved to the Clarion Edge Hotel and was open at 1000. We arrived at 1030 and were cleared to go into the holding area awaiting shuttle busses to the ship, which was only about 300 yards away, but due to security at the dock, we were required to ride the shuttles. The room gradually filled, there were 15 tables with room for 8 at each table. Champagne was served, and there was also coffee and fruit. There was access to restrooms, which became important when Seabourn announced a delay in starting the shuttle service. The shuttles were taken table by table and we were on the 10th table. We did not get onto the ship until after 1500, a wait of 4 ½ hours. By then, it was a mad rush to get something to eat, go to the mandatory zodiac safety briefings and watch the mandatory ship safety video. The room TV was locked until you had completely finished the video. Our parkas were also not in the room as promised, so we had to go to another area before departure and get fitted for them.
Our stateroom is large, for wheelchair access, but has some limitations in the number of chairs, no dining table and also a number of inoperative wall outlets.
Seabourn Venture departed on schedule at 1700 and we had just time to go to the “sailaway” celebration in the Constellation Lounge on deck 9, followed by an Expedition Team briefing at 1830.
Dinner service begins at 1900 and we met Brenda and Brian in the main Restaurant where we enjoyed a good meal before calling it a night and retiring to our suite. We were too tired to even tour the ship, which appears to be beautiful.
The ship rolled a little all night, and when we got up at 0530 we saw why. The seas were on our beam at 12+ foot swells and 6 foot wind chop on top of the swell. The stop at Storestoppen Island was cancelled after zodiacs were launched and it was determined that it was not safe for passenger operations. The ship proceeded to Hornvika, where once again the seas were too rough, so some of the shore excursions were cancelled.
After several hours rolling motionless off Hornvika the ship headed to Scarsvag, where the Zodiacs were finally launched and Miriam and I headed ashore for a included excursion to North Cape. The weather was pretty gruesome as we approached Nordkapp by bus, with winds to 30 knots and rain, heavy at times. Since we had been there before, we just waited in the tourist center until we could re-board the bus for the return to Scarsvag and the ship. By the time we returned, it was nearly time for dinner, so we changed and headed quickly down. Dinner was not all that good, with overcooked lamb and undercooked fish, but it is very early on a new ship with a new crew.
The internet is still not working, very frustrating, but at least they finally fixed the power outlets in the suite. We still have no table for room service, and they have no plan for addressing the problem, again, very frustrating.
We knew there would be teething problems on a new ship, We understand they have an issue with the stabilizers and the thrusters, which could explain why the ship is moving around so much. We are currently sort of circling around North Cape, not yet headed to Bear Island and Svalbard, no explanation given.
July 29, 2022 – At Sea
Today is a “sea day” and sometime after midnight the ship left the North Cape area and headed to Bear Island. This distance is not far, so the ship was only doing 7-9 knots, with no stabilizers. We now know that the stabilizers retract a slow speeds. The weather ranged from overcast to fog and the seas were about 2 meters at 7 seconds on average. Winds persisted at 15-20 knots. Tonight was the Captain’s reception and the first “formal” night.
July 30, 2022 – Bear Island
Seabourn Venture arrived at a small protected bay on the southeast tip of Bear Island or Bjornoya Island. We arrived in fog, which persisted for most of the day, with some clearing at times. The island is about halfway between Nordkapp and Svalbard, in the middle of the Barents Sea. The island was “discovered” and named by by a Dutch Explorer Willem Barentz in 1596. The name came from an encounter with a solo Polar Bear involved in a dramatic fight between Barentz’s team and the bear; the bear lost.
Patrick was on the first kayak excursion at 0715, and then on an 1100 zodiac tour. Bear Island has large bird colonies on the cliffs, with puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, gannets and even some northern skuas. The southern cliffs are pieced by many caves and arches created by the severe weather pounding against the limestone.
Puffins from kayak
Inside one of the sea caves at Bear Island
Seabourn Venture at anchor Bear Island
After recovering the zodiacs, about 1430 Seabourn Venture continued on to Svalbard. Immediately we were back into a thin layer of fog.
July 24, 2022
We were exhausted after the nearly 24 hour journey, and after doing our Covid testing to board the ship decided not to go out for a meal. We were not all that hungry anyway, so Patrick walked up to a local Burger King and brought back some fish and chicken sandwiches for a light supper. Since it was Sunday, most shops and many restaurants were closed.
Since Tromso is some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, for a few more days the “Midnight Sun” never sets. Tomorrow evening it will still be 5 degrees above the horizon at it’s lowest point. Getting up late this evening (midnight) it was interesting to see a a colorful sunset/sunrise that lasted for hours.
July 25, 2022
Today will be another day relaxing and exploring the old town. There is a chance of rain, but at 0500 the sun was shining and the winds were calm. We have a few last minute items to purchase, including sunscreen.
The buffet breakfast was a zoo when we went down early due to two large tour groups trying to get food before their tours departed. Many of the people were pushing and practicing poor buffet behavior even if there was no Covid. We should have waited 30 more minutes because all of a sudden the breakfast area was deserted except for ourselves and two other couples and there were no line and plenty of food.
During the night the room had gotten very warm and we discovered the AC was not working. The sun shining into the room warmed it up so it was uncomfortable, so we called maintenance. The staff was unable to fix the AC, and the only other rooms had high tub/shower combinations rather than walk-in showers. The step into the tub was too high, so we were given fans, which definitely helped.
Patrick walked around the old town and took a few photos of the scenic wood houses, statues to Roald Amundsen and other polar explorers, as well as the very modern public library, and whaling guns outside the Polar Museum.
We enjoyed an early dinner just 2 blocks from the hotel, at Pastafabrikken, an eclectic mix of soups, pasta and pizzas, with a few sandwiches thrown in. The choices were broad, portions were huge and the flavors were spot on. We shared a large Caesar salad, then Miriam had a mussel soup, Patrick a fresh mushroom soup and we finished with a Gorgonzola Tagliatelle. There was fresh bread, but we could not even begin to finish the dishes. We were offered “takeaway” boxes, but where would we store the food? Service was good and our server had been to Seattle and worked on Seabourn ships in a variety of roles.
In the middle of the night we got an email from Seabourn changing the boarding location and process, still trying to understand what it meant.
July 26, 2002
After Miriam and Patrick had a good (and uncrowded) breakfast Patrick met our friends, Brenda and Brian, who arrived the night before. We decided to take a taxi across the bridge to the “Arctic” cathedral, actually a parish church, and then up the aerial tram. Following that, we walked back 1.5 miles across the bridge connecting Tromso to Tromsdalen where the tram and cathedral are located. Wandering through the old part of the city where our hotel is located we stopped and made reservations for dinner at “Fiskekompaniet” restaurant for all four of us. We also checked out the revised boarding location at the Clarion Edge Hotel, about 600 feet from the Radisson Blu. The rain that was predicted held off until we were back to the hotel, but the air smells of moisture, so rain is on the way.
The air conditioning is still not working in our room and it is nearly 80 degrees from the sun shining on our side of the building. The hotel staff brought a second fan. Apparently global warming has hit Tromso also, since the taxi driver said the last snow was May 17, Norwegian Independence Day, and they usually have snow even later. In 2017 we had snow in June just 200 miles north at “NordKapp”.
The Svalbard Adventure Begins At 0300 Saturday morning the Bayview Limousine arrived and Miriam and I headed to SEA airport to begin the journey to Tromso, Norway where we will board the Seabourn Venture for a 25 day cruise to Svalbard, Gree…
East Baranof Part 2
July 15, 2021
After spending 2 days in Petersburg doing maintenance, we headed back out Wrangell Narrows at 0905 and headed down Frederick Sound to Henrys Arm for the evening, anchoring at 1605. Spirit was the only vessel anchored in the calm waters. We began a Mexican Train tournament that evening which will continue.
July 16, 2021
We pulled the anchor from the good holding mud in Henrys Arm at 0700 and headed out Frederick Sound and across Chatham Strait to the east shore of Baranof Island just north of Gut Bay. The weather was overcast, with rain at times. We started fishing at 1230 and by 1630 we had a total of 6 Coho salmon in the box, along with a nice rockfish. Heading into Gut Bay we anchored and processed the fish before having a nice dinner under now sunny skies.
July 17, 2021
We pulled the anchor from 100 feet of water at 0810 and headed back out into Chatham Strait. After several hours we had 5 Coho and 2 rockfish in the icebox, so we headed across Chatham Strait to Halleck Harbor in Saginaw Bay on Kuiu Island for the evening. The anchor was set at 1645 after 34 NM of travel. We were treated to many Humpback Whales feeding including several bubble feeds.
July 18, 2021
With no particular schedule in mind, we raised the anchor from the good holding in Halleck Harbor and headed back up Frederick Sound to Portage Bay, where we set the anchor at 1845. We were the only vessel for some time until a commercial crab boat came in and anchored further up the bay.
July 19, 2021
Dense fog greeted us in the morning as we raised the anchor at 0622 and headed out of Portage Bay, never glimpsing the entrance lights. The dense fog, with visibility of often less than 100 yards, continued all the way to the entrance buoy to Wrangell Narrows. Then the weather cleared and we docked in stall N27 with no incidents at 0956. The remainder of the day was spent cleaning as many fish scales and as much dried blood from the cockpit as possible, but now dressed in shorts and t-shirts in the sunny warm weather.
We enjoyed grilled bratwurst and potato salad for dinner, along with appetizers of smoked oysters and cream cheese in the cockpit under sunny skies. A Mexican Train marathon then ensued until nearly midnight.
July 20, 2021
The skies were mostly sunny as we continued cleaning Spirit. Miriam went to “Salty Dawg” for lunch with Jerry Frostad and the visited with Marj Oines before we cooked filet mignon on the BBQ for dinner. The rain began about 2000 as we play mor Mexican Train.