“Man we’ve seen EVERYTHING today! Walrus, polar bears, the Virgohamna site. All we need now is a whale.”
Not 30 seconds after Brady said that in the cockpit as he drove Isbjorn north along the coast and towards our current anchorage at Holmiabukta, we spotted a spout off to starboard. Then another. And another.
“I thought it was ice on the water at first,” Brady said. “Then I saw the spouts and saw it was swimming, and just shouted BELUGA!”
We’d sailed right into an enormous pod of beluga’s the white whales of the Arctic, and once again, the crew scrambled on deck with their camera gear. There were literally dozens of them, all swimming to the south and into the fjord in unison, spouts covering the horizon, the distinct white, dorsal-fin-less backs arching out of the water. They were moving fast - Brian had to fly the drone at 8 knots just to keep up with them. James had brought along a hydrophone that we connected to the Zoom recorder, and from the dinghy, Brady, Kiril and I recorded several minutes of the beluga’s talking to each other with their echo-locating, a chorus of beautiful, otherworldly sounds emanating from the deep. As we passed the headphones around to the crew, their faces lit up in genuine surprise and delight at the whale’s songs. A few moments of magic.
The pod was paralleling the steep shoreline on the Spitsbergen mainland, swimming only a few dozen feet off the beach. We moved Isbjorn in close in the calm conditions, shut the motor down and just hung with the whales. James put on his drysuit for a swim with them, but by the time he got in the water, they had gone. In the binoculars you could see the group heading out into the deeper water in the fjord, hundreds of them.
A Midnight Dinner
In all earnestness, earlier in the day we had started celebrating the fact that we’d be able to get back on a ‘normal’ schedule after our visit to Virgohamna and the short, ten-mile ride to the next anchorage, maybe even managing a dinner at 7 or 8pm and an early bedtime.
“The only thing that could change it now would be a polar bear,” Karin said.
Well, that’s all we needed apparently, and with Chris’ message to us about the mother and cub, our evening was spent. It was SO worth it!
We finally got around to Holmiabukta, Karin, myself and Brady driving Isbjorn through the archipelago on the NW corner of Spitsbergen while the others sat below looking through the footage of the bears and belugas and still glowing with excitement from the big day we’d had. We finally ate dinner, Mia’s beef stew, around 11:30pm last night before a slideshow of photos from the day and a few glasses of wine. I think we got to bed around 0200.
Our anchorage here is near the face of another glacier and tucked behind a spit of high land on a stony beach, extremely protected and very scenic. To port, a waterfall cascades down to the beach, fed from a freshwater lake just out of view over the nearby ridge, which we hope to explore today. It’s 3:15 in the afternoon as I type and the crew is just not waking up. I even slept until after 1. It’s raining today, so we’re not missing anything, and I think we need some rest after yesterday. Kiril is currently looking at the topo map of the area. Soon we’ll have ‘breakfast’, then decide on today’s mission.
Until next time, HOLD FAST