August 16th - Alkefjellet - Brasvellbreen

The wind was still blowing very hard when we got up, and so the planned landing to see walruses had to be abandoned. Wendy went to the lecture on Vikings given by Colleen Beaty, the archaeologist. I stayed in the cabin and watched a movie.

We heard that both the Polar Star and the Polar Quest were in the same situation as us, trying to find somewhere for a safe landing. We steamed down the Hinlopen Strait for the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet, where up to 100,000 Brunnich's guillemots nest on ledges of the cliffs. Approaching the shore, we saw this glacier with high cliffs on either side of it.

The cliffs were very impressive as we got closer and they reared above us with craggy peaks.

The captain manoeuvred the ship so that we were very close to the cliffs and we could see that every conceivable ledge was occupied by guillemots.

The birds do not build nests, but huddle together in tight formation and lay their eggs directly on the ledges. The eggs are pear-shaped so that they do not roll off the edge. We watched the birds flying to and from the cliffs and into the sea to catch fish. They reminded us very much of penguins as they dived into the water, flapping their wings rapidly. They appeared to have great difficulty taking off from the water.

We saw one bearded seal from the bow, which then dived below the surface.

We spent about an hour at the cliffs and then the ship headed towards the ice sheet at Brasvellbreen, which is the largest ice sheet in the northern hemisphere, extending for about 190 kms. As we sailed along the edge of the ice cliffs, we could see waterfalls pouring off the ice sheet and down into the sea.

A giant arch in the wall of the ice sheet with a waterfall pouring out of the ice.

The winds blew at Force 9 and it was difficult to stand up. As we walked round the ship taking photos, we saw the group of Chinese trying to hold out their flag in the very strong winds to take photos of it.

We sailed along the ice sheet for about an hour but then the captain announced we would turn round as the winds were blowing so hard. As we turned, I saw in the distance the edge of the ice sheet had a section that was only just attached and it had formed an arch across the sea.

We went below and had a drink in the bar and then a meal with Joy and Craig, Australians from Brisbane. We stayed up till midnight and went back up on deck to take more photos. The wind was blowing as hard as ever.

                                  The midnight sun over Brasvellbreen

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