August 20th - Bear Island - South to Tromso

It was quite a rough crossing from Spitsbergen to Bear Island (Bjornoya) and we didn't sleep too well with the ship rolling a lot. When we went on deck, we were sailing down the eastern side of Bear Island and anchored in a protected bay. Our Zodiac departed at 8am with Christian, our driver, and Sue Flood. There was quite a lot of swell as we left the ship to sail along the coast.

Once again we saw fantastic dramatic scenery with cliffs and craggy outcrops of rocks all along a very wild shore. Bear Island forms the southernmost part of Svalbard and is situated in the western end of the Barents Sea. It is uninhabited apart from a few people who work at a meteorological station. It is a nature reserve.

The sky was full of birds, mainly kittiwakes but also many glaucous gulls.The birds nested on every conceivable ledge, nook and cranny of the cliffs.

Me looking up at the cliffs that rose hundreds of feet above the sea.

We came across this striking green 'meadow' covering the side of the mountain. It was such a contrast to the bare rocks that were the predominant feature of the cliffs.

Waterfalls cascaded down from a great height. I estimated this one to be about a thousand feet from top to bottom.

We sailed past this Russian freighter that had been wrecked on the rocks about three years ago. Apparently the captain had been drunk when the accident happened.

There were many caves and some, like this one, went right through the cliffs. Birds were everywhere and we saw many dead chicks at the bottom of the cliffs being eaten by gulls. The guillemot fledglings have to jump down into the sea when they are ready to leave the nest.

At the furthest point of the Zodiac tour, we saw this extraordinary rock in the distance. It reminded me of a skyscraper hotel in one of the Gulf states.

Looking into one of the caves with a Zodiac coming through from the other side.

It was great fun going through some of the rock formations and quite exciting as the sea surged back and forth through the narrow gaps in the rocks.

After a couple of hours we returned to the ship. It had been a great way to spend our last Zodiac expedition and we all agreed it had been a fitting end to our tour of Svalbard.

As we left Bear Island, I saw this freighter in the mist. It made me think of an Alistair Maclean mystery book about a ghost ship, especially so because of the weird contrast of the sun glinting on the sea and the ship shrouded in mist.

Our last look at Bear Island as we sailed away to the Norwegian mainland and Tromso.

We had lunch and Wendy went to a cookery demonstration by Anne-Mari, the ship's chef. Following this, we went to a lecture by Colleen on the Vikings. We then met Erik and Anne Thorsby to discuss our Baltic Drive. They gave us some good ideas for our planned drive through Norway next year. Maybe we will meet them again then.

Robin West gave a short briefing and then Juan gave a lecture on Plate Tectonics, which was very well attended. We then changed for the Captain's Farewell party, followed by dinner with Mike and Gail. Juan and Debra also joined us. We hadn't spoken with them before. He came from Malaga and she from Minnesota.

The end of the cruise was rapidly approaching. Tomorrow we would be arriving in Tromso, our final destination.

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