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SPITSBERGEN

Monday 11th July - Tuesday 26th July 2016

Mike Watson

Walrus, Sarstangen. We enjoyed some close encounters with these amazing creatures (Mike Watson)

Walrus, Sarstangen. We enjoyed some close encounters with these amazing creatures (Mike Watson)

Our 15 day circumnavigation of Spitsbergen aboard the wonderful SV Noorderlicht again delivered some impressive totals, including 11 Polar Bears, c.200 Walruses, 11 Arctic Foxes, 26 Ivory Gulls, 4 Sabine’s Gulls and 7 Long-tailed Skuas plus 11 Belugas as well as Northern Minke and Humpback Whales, not forgetting the stupendous glaciated landscape and the exquisite High Arctic flora. Polar Bear numbers were down 50% on my last voyage here 4 years ago, surely owing to the reduced extent of Arctic sea ice this summer, however, some of them were still in good condition. However, the message is clear, if you want to see Polar Bears in Svalbard, do not delay. The future looks quite bleak for them. Ivory Gulls depend on Polar Bear kills and follow them around so when the sea ice is far to the north, so are some of the gulls. Again Ivory Gull numbers were low compared to my last voyage here when we saw around 80. Captain Ted also commented on how the glaciers have visibly receded over the last 20 years he has been sailing here. If you haven’t been to Svalbard before then you would not notice the difference of course and the glacial scenery is still fabulous but yet again, a visit sooner rather than later is a good idea.

A Polar Bear swims out to investigate SV Noorderlicht (Mike Watson).

A Polar Bear swims out to investigate SV Noorderlicht (Mike Watson).