Groaning glacier & another air force brigade…
July 2, 14th of July Glacier & Ny-Ålesund
I had a nice morning coffee on the front deck while spotting stubby Svalbard reindeer grazing on the steep shore. A Svalbard reindeer is short, bulky and with a hippie influenced fur. After breakfast we set out on our first Zodiac cruise in the sunny and calm weather. Our attention was initially turned to a small vertical bird cliff inhabited by nesting Brünnich’s guillemots. A large glaucous gull flew by the Zodiac balancing a guillemot egg between the beaks. The egg was dropped on purpose against the stones of the pebble beach to have an auk egg breakfast.
All of a sudden a V-shaped formation of barnacle geese came flying over the steep rock. A number of Atlantic puffins were also nesting there and Sue’s boat even found a pair of Razorbills that normally is breeding much further south.
Our morning cruise continued into a dreamy world of ice approaching the 14th of July glacier. Actually 60% of all Svalbard is covered in glaciers. It may sound pretentious, but I was genuinely awestruck among the kaleidoscope of blue shades around me. As we came even closer to the glacier’s face the ice density increased, it was getting considerably colder and a strange fizzing sound took over my attention. It is the sound of air bubbles popping out of melting ice, maybe thousands of years old air bubbles released into the atmosphere.
Inside the lagoon blacklegged kittiwakes had a get-together on a small floating ice block. We heard the glacier groaning like a troll but a sudden deep crack made us all look up and see a huge block of ice fall into the sea. The whole club of kittiwakes left their resting place and flew over to look for stunned fish or amphipods floating on the surface. The impact of the ice created a micro-tsunami, which passed under our boat, and I understood the need to keep the distance to an active glacier face.
After lunch we visited Ny-Ålesund and apart from being the northernmost community in the world there was a couple of more northernmost things… like a post office and a retired train. I went straight for the pond to look for bird action while the others explored the village and Roald Amundsen’s house. To my delight two red-throated divers were fighting in the water and another one was sitting on a nest looking at the combatants.
The most memorable birds in Ny-Ålesund are without doubt the same species I very well remember from Longyearbyen. The arctic terns in Ny-Ålesund are, if it is possible, even more persistent, more numerous and more aggressive than those by the waterfront in LYB. I was trying to act professional, or at least look professional, and consider these red beaked birds as a photographic opportunity. But there were unavoidable moments when I went back into controlled panic, but I would never tell anyone about that, would I?
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.