When we woke up we found ourselves driving into the northernmost part of Svalbard. 80´50´´ north. From now on there is nothing more than ice and open water between the last island and the North Pole. 1,018km (664 statute miles) from the north pole and 1,074km away from Nordkapp (the northernmost part of mainland Norway) and 1,650km north of the polar circle.
Slowly in the distance of the horizon we could see fog coming in, and some of it was already covering the top part of Rossøya. But after breakfast we jumped into the zodiacs and the fog lifted shortly after.
First we went around Little Table Island and found some wonderful remains of snow laying on the shore, and just on the north-east side we were met by stunning little Atlantic puffins swimming around in the ocean, which gave tremendously good photo opportunities.
For several minutes we stood still and got a good, intimate look at the puffins, and then headed over to Rossøya where we found a suitable spot for a landing.
On shore we were met by beautiful colours from flowers, moss and hundreds of birds sitting in the mountain wall. Again we split into two groups because of the harsh stony terrain and quite a tough climb to the top. Some stayed back with the boat looking at the rich plant life and the birds on the sea cliff, while the rest headed for the top.
On the top we were met by a majestic view, a mingling birdlife and we even found traces of polar bear faeces, but sadly still no live polar bear.
After a while we walked back down and met up with the rest of the group, jumped back into the zodiacs and went back to the ship. Yet another fantastic warm lunch met us in the dining room. Complements to the chef came flowing afterward as usual.
Meanwhile the boat had set course for Phipps Island and we set anchor just on the west side from it where we also discovered a large group of walrus laying on the beach.
Shortly after we had set anchor we got back into our zodiacs and did a landing around 400 meters away from the colony of walrus. For extra safety, because we had poor overview of the whole surroundings, one boat waited out on the sea, but close enough to come to aid if needed and the second boat went ashore to try to get closer to the colony.
There had been said on the VHF earlier on that a polar bear was spotted on the same beach only the day before. And even though we were excited to see the walruses, we secretly also hoped for our first polar bear meeting.
The first group had a very successful landing, and came close enough for good pictures. So did the second group as we later switched positions. It was a large group of mixed walruses. In front laid a huge male with large tusks. While some of the others had to look towards us in curiosity if we were dangerous or not, the biggest male could not be bothered to even open his eyes. We gracefully walked slowly towards the group before we sat down and made ourselves as small as possible to not threaten the walruses. As we walked back we lined up on a straight line and gently walked back, so that the walruses could only see the back of our guide – thinking we were no threat being so small.
Later we did a search around some of the nearby islands, did a short landing on Martensøya, before we received the message of a possible observation of polar bear on the north-east side of Phipps Island. Unfortunately this turned to be a false observation, and we had to return to the ship without any polar bear this time. Luckily we acquired some good pictures of the walruses. Then we set course for the ice sheet in the north, and at 23.00 we arrived to the ice. We stayed there for some hours before we turned the nose south again.
Yet another day passed with a fine dinner and cosy socializing in the afternoon before we crawled happily into our beds once again.