Tag Archives: Reindeer

Another beaut day

After a lumpy night’s anchorage in Van Muydenbukta, Bellsund, we awoke to a grey morning with the sinister black scree slopes of Ingeborgfjellet looming out of the mist and a cold wind gusting from the west. Not enough to deter these adventurers though! Soon we were forcing Shy (our dog – who had rather different ideas of what one should be doing first thing in the morning) into our trusty tender and heading for the beach of Vårsolbukta. Here little auks nest in profusion, foxes frolic on the beach, and the remains of the Northern Exploration Company gold mining attempt (they found none) add a dash of history to the stark Arctic scenery. Soon we were sitting by a scree slope watching birds flit back and forth from their nests and enjoying the gawky approach of reindeer with a curiosity in constant conflict with their urge to flee. Then, a quick cruise through a maze of twisted rock canyons and arches (a huge grin on my face as I ride the surge) and then back to Widdershins for a cup of hot soup. Another beaut day.

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Arctic Foxes at Trygghamna, Svalbard

So, as you know “two in the blue” might better be called “three on the sea” as we try to accommodate an alarmingly large husky pup on our little yacht. The sail from Lonyearbyen to Trygghamna yesterday however, went without a hitch and our new crew member seemed to handle the slight swell well. As mentioned previously, this dog (named monster by the dog farm) was not having a great time with his fellow animals and is all-over a little shy. In fact we have decided that the original name “Monster” just didn’t hit the mark and we have now dubbed him “Shy Monster” or just “Shy” for short. While Shy is still taking some time to get used to the sea, he is starting to break out of his shell. Each time we take him for a walk ashore he is just a little more curious and engaged with what is happening, and today during a long walk he began to relish stomping his huge paws through the puddles and mud.

Whilst Shy was busy accumulating a healthy layer of mud for later disposal in the yacht, Leonie and I were wandering around Trygghamna enjoying splendid scenery (and in my case also collecting mud for later disposal). Above us, birds wheeled in huge mixed flocks around the cliffs looming overhead, and threw a cacophony of sound into the grey sky. Reindeers ambled over the rolling green moss that carpeted the ground below the cliffs, and the occasional young animal would wander up to within five meters of our party to give us a long sideways stare before returning to the more important matter of ingesting more moss. But for us, the highlight was without a doubt the Arctic foxes we found at-play in the foothills. The family of Mum, Dad and five pups were running about playing a game of tag and we got a chance to watch them for quite a while before they caught our scent and dissolved into the rocky surrounds. There was a particular moment when the mum gazed up at us as we struggled to contain our enthusiastic puppy – at the time her own pup was busy trying to crawl onto her head – and I’m pretty sure that we shared a moment of parental empathy.

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Today we had another cracker of a day in South Georgia with a landing at Ocean Harbour with a long walk over rolling green fields with reindeers streaming past. It’s lovely to watch the reindeer floating over the rough-hewn landscape of the island but also a bit of a startling reminder that humans have changed the face of this jewel forever – the reindeers along with rats and mice and other invasive species are creating havoc with the natural order of things here and really should be removed. Certainly they add a touch of wonder to the island but at the end of the day they really don’t belong.

After Ocean Harbour we sailed around to St Andrews Bay which is home to the largest King Penguin colony on the planet… over 600 000 penguins are in residence here and they create a clamour and a smell and a visual feast that really has to be seen to understand. The landing is an assault on all senses and I always leave the bay with a sense of wonder at the vibrancy of life down here in the Southern latitudes. This time I had an extra sense of wonder instilled by the violent winds rolling off the glacier above the colony – we landed in 35knts of wind which is a bit hard under any conditions, but as the afternoon wore on the wind steadily rose until the maximum gusts of 94 knts started pushing the zodiacs around little toys. I drove into blinding wind-blown spume for two hours, landed on beaches I couldn’t see due to the sand blowing into my eyes and ended up with one small dry patch located somewhere behind my left knee … until yet another wave crashed over and ensured that I was utterly soaked from head to foot.

I limped back to the ship at the end of the day feeling cold, exhausted and physically sore …  but with a huge grin on my face none the less …

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