Just to prove how flexible you need to be on an expedition like this, our plans changed several times before we had even finished breakfast today! The original plan was to head out to a bird cliff and glacier, but after realising that there were too many other ships in the area to give the group the best experience possible, Mats and the Captain decided that we would head for a nearby fjord and attempt a glacier hike.
We landed on the beach nearby and started the hike up to the glacier in the hope it would be stable and safe enough for us to attempt without crampons. The views while we hiked were absolutely beautiful and every now and again we could hear cracking and rumbling as the glacier moved and calved.
Once we made it over the ridge, we all stopped to take a few photos, while Oskar determined that it wasn't safe to attempt the climb. Nevertheless the hike to get there was fantastic and the views were worth it.
Back on the ship and we re-positioned around the corner to the fjord we had hoped to see that morning. Mats directed us through yet more fog towards the landing point. It was a short walk to get to the bird cliff over some spongy green moss which made a change from the rocks we were used to. At this point, right before our last landing of the day, the group had accepted we were heading out to see some birds and go for a nice walk before the end of the trip. What we got instead was more than we ever could have hoped for!
It started with three reindeer just sitting relaxing a few feet from us! They watched us for a while before wandering round and allowing us to take photos to our hearts content. Amazing way to round out the trip! The one animal we all wanted to see but hadn't was so close we could almost touch it. The group was really happy as we wandered towards the bird cliff that we could barely see because of the fog.
Mats - being the superstar he is - directed us towards a patch of rocks where he had previously seen an Arctic fox den. We all took up our positions and waited. And waited. And waited a bit more! Nothing. Mats had a walk around to see if he could find the fox, and just around the corner we, found him sleeping in the shade of an overhanging rock. The group quickly moved into position and snapped away taking photos. Although we had seen one other fox before this, it was a treat to see this little guy as he stretched and yawned while sizing us all up! We got to watch him until he moved right up over the rocks to find a different sleeping place. Spectacular.
If this wasn't enough, the reindeer had followed us over to the fox, so we got a few more photos of them too. As we were walking away, a couple of the group had walked back up to the fox den. They watched as a gull swooped low over the entrance, and out came a mother fox to chase him off. As she did, out of the den barrelled 7 adorable little baby fox cubs! The couple of people who were watching already called the rest of us over and we sat for about an hour just watching these cubs play around, absolutely mesmerised by their games! Photo after photo, we couldn't believe what we were seeing. The mother ran and fetched a dead bird at one point, putting it out for the cubs to eat... although none of them seemed sure what to do with it! They played and jumped and squeaked and put on an amazing show. As we finally decided we had to leave them, both Mats and Oskar were buzzing about what we had seen. Sightings like that are extremely rare, so we couldn't have been any luckier!!
As we walked back to the Zodiacs we all struggled to articulate how amazing the landing had been.
As we sped back towards the Freya, with Mats leading the way, he suddenly diverted his course towards what looked to most of us like an empty beach. Of course Mats being Mats, he had seen yet another polar bear. Male, maybe 8 years old, walking along the beach just doing his polar bear thing. Incredible.
Back on the ship, and it was time for packing bags, the Captains dinner, and some thank yous before one last Zodiac ride into Longyearbyen for a drink as a group.