Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 9 above isle of Spitsbergen in and out of ice pack July 3, 2013

Today starts out very early with an announcement that a bearded seal has been seen on an ice floe, and off in a distance a polar bear is walking around on another ice floe.

I can't get dressed fast enough, but I get myself upstairs to one of the many viewing points, camera in hands.  It's 32 degrees at this time 7:30 am but wasn't windy so I was very comfy.

I see the seal and actually located another one. We got close to one seal and then it jumped into the water. Ok now back to the polar bear that was a mile away and walking on the ice. That far away it looks like a spec, a dot, certainly not recognizable as a bear. Nevertheless I am taking pictures of this dot as are the rest of us red jacketed tourists.

We get closer and closer to the bear. The ship stops and the bear is a quarter mile away. It is walking now toward the bearded seal still on an ice floe. Going faster and faster. The seal jumps in the water and the bear is a sad creature. He sits down and waits for the seal to reappear. The question now is how long will the captain wait before moving us away - will we get to see the bear get the seal or walk away?

Well one thing we learned about these polar bears is that they have a lot of patience. Certainly more than I have. That bear sat there for probably over half hour though it seemed like an eternity.

Then the bear decides to give up, much to my delight. Up he gets and starts walking towards the ship. Now you can tell it's a bear! And he walks and walks and then before you know it he is at the front of our ship. By now the crew is on deck with cameras and everything is very quiet. The bear smells us 

and food as we have not had breakfast.

This beautiful animal now proceeds to walk down the starboard side of the ship looking up to see what we are. He is so close you could almost touch him. Cameras clicking and excitement that you can't believe.

As he moves around the ship all the passengers and crew move with him. We are all in amazement. Never has this happened before we are told by the guides. He then goes around to the back of the ship where the dining area is and people there see him stand up and try to get on the ship. Then he comes up the port side. At one point he stands straight up on his back legs. What a sight that was. He is one big bear. His feet are huge. The paw tracks on the ice are large and round. He is beautiful. We are so excited.  

We saw him jump several times from one ice floe to another. He is  graceful.  These ice floes are suppose to be in many of the places we have been but they have melted. You could see the ice melting as we watch. Guess it freezes up during the night and melts a bit during the day.

Finally he turned around and walked away.

Now we go to breakfast and still have lookouts for more bears. But how can we top the last one!  Mother and cub I guess!!!

After lunch and in calm waters they offer the Polar Plunge. This is where they bring down a zodiac and some stairs.  People come in their bathing suits and get in the zodiac. A waist band attached to a rope is put around them and then two at a time they jump into the cold Arctic water and immediately get up the stairs and get out. We had almost forty people do it. What a hoot!

One guy had a GoPro on. We have a few teenagers on board with their parents. They all did it naturally and even some of the crew members. Looked mighty cold.

Afternoon is relaxing time hoping to hear that another bear has even spotted. We are in an ice floe area that is beginning to thin out.

No more bears today. Love, J 

Day 8 Svalbard islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandt July 2, 2013

Today was spent with wet landings and hiking and walking. The two islands we visited, though close to each other, were very different from each other.

The first was lush and green with hills and steep trekking, and the later was desert and rocks and flat walking.

This was my first time using trekking poles - what a treat. It was cool on the first island and warm on the second - the red jackets come off. The terrain is very interesting as well as the views. The rocks on the second island were nice though hard to walk on. There is more to tell but I need my pictures and can't remember the phrases. Am writing this on afternoon July 3 and things have started to run together.  Need marbles!!!

Alma Quigley, my roommate, is so much fun. We laugh so much people can hear us and wonder what we find so funny. Every morning she tells me what I've talked about in my sleep. This morning is was about depleting my bank account and I must have been on the phone as she said I said "I'm still in the Arctic."

She doesn't snore or make any noise - the perfect roommate. We have a butler and a maid. Then there is the night butler and maid. We are living the life of Downton Abbey except for the ladies maid who dresses you.

Very frustrating not to be able to send email and put my blog together. I apologize for the long silence. Hope I can get back in touch once closer to Oslo and do plan to get this all out in Olso on our last night.  

Thanks for your patience. Love, J 

Day 7 Barentseya July 1, 2013

Another day. What will it bring. We were all up at 7am to see the longest glacier in the northern hemisphere.  We followed it for almost an hour and it calved once with a rumble and falling ice. Of course we only saw the aftermath as you don't know where to look.

Saw glaciers all day. Went through some narrow areas between Spitsbergen and Edgeoya.  Very beautiful. More glacier ice but not a lot of floating ice at this time of year. Not like last night when there was a lot of ice floes fortunately so those bears could get a rest. There used to be a lot of ice floes here and ships couldn't come here. But the glacier ice recedes one meter a day. That is really scary.

Once the guides said there were reindeer on shore. We rush out to the guides trying to explain where the reindeer are. Can't see them as if the alleged creatures are really there I would want to see the antlers. Just dots way far away. I don't think they should notify us of something that can't be recognized. It gets our hopes up and then everyone is disappointed. This happened twice.

In the afternoon we were scheduled to search for the elusive polar bears again. But they were not to be found so we had a zodiac ride to some huge and beautiful rocks that were covered with birds on cliffs and ledges with one egg per female bird. One parent stays with the egg and one goes for food. We saw a full kill of a guillimont by a gull. Then the gull sucks out the insides of the bird.

The eggs are pointed on one end and roll around and not off the cliff. There is no nest. How is it that this all works out this way?  I find it fascinating.

Birds were all over the place - many in the sky, perched all over the large beautiful rocks, and feeding 

the in water. When the chick is 3 weeks old the father goes down to the water and the chick is sent down for it's first fly away to the Father waiting in the water below. Then it spends 5 months with good old Dad till it is on it's own.

In 3-4 months all the birds leave to go to Greenland for the winter.

It was a nice outing but not what I was hoping for.

It's 10:16pm right now and the sun is in the sky so one really wouldn't know what time it is. We are stopped around some rocks and glaciers and it's pretty quiet here.

Love, J

Day 6 Edgeoya in Svallbard. Sunday June 30

Greetings everyone. This is being sent after I'm back in wireless contact. We are in the land of midnight sun and no moon so far. More on that later. 

This is Sunday. Terribly foggy and for that reason we can't land e cause if bears are present it would be dangerous, so we are told. We heard there was an injured bear here but it wasn't seen by the scouting party. 

But we did go out on a zodiac ride near the shore to see about 15 walruses lying around. One did move with great effort about five feet.

We took pictures hoping for a bear but none showed up. Darn. I really want to see a polar bear. 

The weather is not all that cold if the wind is not blowing. I did manage to lose my hat to the ocean but it was recovered. 

In the afternoon it was even more foggy. We were told there was a bear on shore so off we go again. We looked and looked through the thick fog and some people saw a white dot and declared it was a bear. Can't prove it by me. Probably a rock. I saw nothing but it was a nice ride. I was so disappointed. Really want to see the polar bears. 

We are a group of 8 but two of the people have friends from AU and spend their time with them. The 6 of us are constantly laughing and having a grand time.  

After dinner which lasts till 10 or so we went to bed. Alma and I were talking and an hour later we get a knock at the door. OE tells us she heard there are two bears swimming. 

The sun is high in the sky. Seems like 5pm. Some thought of staying up all night to see what it would bring. 

Thank goodness we were not already in our night clothes. Grabbed shoes and camera and dashed up. Took a while to find them but I saw them. Two dots swimming along. We were there for over an hour. The ship followed them and tried to get as close as possible. 

Figured they must be tired as one was a cub and after a long time it was lagging behind. Low and behold they got up on a piece of ice and we watched them walking around. What a treat that was. White on white. 

We had lots of ice patches but just a few years ago it would have been solid ice. This trip has only been offered for five years. 

The entire passenger list and crew must of have been out on deck. The sun was high up and the wind was very cold. It gets colder the further north we go. But some how you don't feel it when there is something exciting to see. 

I hope my pictures aren't all blurry. Hard to tell till I load them on to my iPad. 

So what seemed like an unremarkable day turned out to be pretty exciting. 

We have a French group, German group and the the English speaking people. Announcements are usually in all three languages. 

Tomorrow will be an exciting day and I'd better see some more bears and maybe reindeer. 

Till tomorrow. Love, J

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Days 4, 5 Svalbard

Well my goodness me. My sbcglobal email account was deactivated for some unknown reason and I won't be able to find out till I return home. It's been hectic trying to figure out what to do to stay in touch with my world. So for now please use my iCloud email ( above in the FROM field. You might want to cc the sbcglobal one also just in case.....

Yesterday we had two outings. The morning was 1.5 hours zodiac cruise seeing lots of birds. I came here to see polar bears, I said. I can hardly see these little birds in their small nests but it was a nice cruise. 
In the afternoon we had a special stop at a weather station and a walk around a beautiful area where the puffins were.  Getting pictures was another feat of wet belly photography and avoiding falling off a cliff. Needless to say I did not do that. No industrial accidents so far. 
There was a tiny store there about the size of the bathroom on the ship. 
It was sunny and warm and we all took off our red parkas and enjoyed ourselves. 
The guides are wonderful at guiding us, especially us older folks, up and down the rocks. We are well taken care of. 
We invited a lady who was traveling alone to join us for dinner and that worked out very well. She is American from DC and now lives in England. 
I'm told not to send pictures as it's too slow and I'm using the ship's wifi. Sorry about that. 
Today, Saturday, we had a cruise around some glaciers. We also saw small icebergs, some calving, and birds. Well the birds were well located and though I thought I could see them I was photographing a rock. I don't see
                    well and they aren't big birds. Where are the polar bears, I ask!!!!
Now people are going ashore for an hour walk with trekking poles in wet and rainy conditions. No bears or we could not go. We are learning a lot about the plants and how they survive the winters. It's very gloomy out today where as yesterday was warm and sunny. 
Later we will have a recap and find out what the schedule is for tomorrow. Bears, walrus, fox, seals, those things I can see. Hope I get to.     

Much love, J

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 3 on way to Bear Island

The first part got cut off and can't remember what it was supposed to be. So sorry.

r one day at sea and to sleep in after much travel. Some people are sick from the rocking of the boat but it's nothing like it was in Drake Passage in Antarctica.

At 9:30 am we were awakened with the terribly loud speaker system in both English and German that a lecture would be starting in half hour.

Alma and I got up and dashed to breakfast which would end at ten. We then came back to our room and got showered and dressed.  Then we went to a great photo lecture.

There was another Interruption during the lecture as two humpback whales and a bunch of dolphins were seen from deck so off we went cameras in hand.

The problem for me is that the whales were too far away and after the tail fluke I got in Alaska in 1992 I'm a bit picky about taking pictures of a dorsal fin way in the distance.

Back to the lecture, back to the room, and then off to lunch. You see everything happens here by the meals and that's how we know what we are doing or have done.

Then we had the obligatory zodiac lecture of what we can and cannot do. I'm just hoping we see polar bears.

We are on our way to Bear Island where we will stop and zodiac around to see birds. What's wrong with this picture???  We might see bears and limestone drive through caves.

Today is the Captain's Reception and dinner. No it's not dressy. Change of shirt and men will probably wear slacks instead of jeans. My kind of travel.

Love, J

Reception was nice but my goodness some people were all dressed up. In Antarctica it was very casual and of course eight of us had no luggage so you can imagine how we looked. Dinner was good but a store went out and ours was delayed. We spent three hours but it still seemed like 6:30 when we left the dining room.

Tomorrow we zodiac around Bear Island but won't get out of the zodiac. It's our first outing. Looking forward.

Good night all. Love, J

Our group.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 2 boarding the ship

Hi everybody.  There won't be cell service for much more time so you may not here from me. But I will keep writing my blog and put it together when I can. Haven't figured out how to attach pictures so may resort to email blog.

Today, Wed June 26, we flew to Tromso where we boarded our ship the Silver Explorer. It is the same ship I was on in Antarctica in 2011. It's just been renamed.

We were recognized by some of the staff - guess we made an impression on our last visit. Got checked in, photo ID made for getting back on ship after zodiac rides, had champagne, life vest drill, met the staff and dinner. Still very tired and many of us retiring early.

Tomorrow we are at sea all day and have lectures, games, and events thoughout the day. Of course there are meals and nap times scheduled.  We have a choice of 117 movies and documentaries to watch so that will occupy the day.

We are in the Arctic Circle. It is starting to get cold and the sun is up all the live long day and night.

Tromso is a beautiful little ski area. Very green right now dotted with snow on the peaks and you can see the ski runs and lights for night skiing. We didn't get a tour of the town but it looks small and quaint.

Our group:

Tromso, Norway

Sherry, JMG, Alma, Van and Jim and OE in back.

Will be in touch as much as possible.   Love, J

Judith Marx Golub
Tel:  650-941-5623
Cell: 650-906-5625