Exploring Bjørnøya

Wow! What a day! We awoke in the remote anchorage of Sørhamna on the south western corner of the tiny island of Bjørnøya, in the middle of the Barents Sea. Well, actually we awoke rather late. We were exhausted after a long crossing with constant four hour watch rotations, and also suffered a fitful night’s sleep. The island is in fact known to possess no all-weather safe anchorages. The weather wasn’t exactly bad, but constant gusts of wind coming down the cliff and a rather sharp rolling swell are not conducive to a goodnights sleep, no matter how exhausted you are, especially when you feel compelled to brave the arctic winds several times just to make absolutely certain that the anchor is holding and we are not being blown to Russia.

Then again waking up at ten o’clock in a spectacular anchorage and scoffing a healthy serving of bacon and eggs is not so bad at all! And first order of the day was definitely to go exploring. So out comes our trusty inflatable boat “Brad” and off we zoom to explore the jagged coast of our bay; complete with caves, arches, and waterfalls plunging off the one hundred meter high cliffs only to be dashed away by the winds before ever reaching the sea. And let’s not forget the birds! Every flat(ish) space on the cliffs around us was occupied by nesting birds: fulmars (our constant companions of the crossing), guillemots (several species), kittiwakes and several other bird species all peered at us from their eyries and flocked around us as we buzzed around the bay.

Next stop was Kvalrossbukta just to the north were we are now sitting out a gale blowing down off the rocky mountains were we strolled this evening. The bay here was once the site of a fairly serious whaling operation, but the winds howling through the rigging now have done their work over the hundred odd years since occupation, and little now remains of this fleeting human presence. Much more impressive was the life all around that struggled on despite the seemingly inhospitable conditions. Flowers of several hues cling to the rocky slopes, scurvy grass adds a dash of green and the sheltered slopes spring beneath your feet as you bounce across the dry moss beds.

A fantastic day in a very remote, barren but beautiful rock that is teeming with birdlife.

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