Seal and whale spotting and an unscheduled cruise of Spert Island

If there is one type of holiday where you can very much expect the unexpected, it is polar cruises to Antarctica like those provided by WILDFOOT. Again, our travel advisor had much to say about her incredible experiences on the latest day of her trip, including a visit to a site that is inaccessible for much of the year.

Day 10

Overnight we had sailed to Cierva Cove and the plan was to do a zodiac cruise this morning. The cove is known for its rugged mountain line and abundance of icebergs and with the still, mirror like water the scene was only enhanced by the incredible reflections. We spent almost three hours cruising amongst the brash ice and icebergs, absorbing the splendour of this place. We also struck lucky with leopard seals and had two close encounters, one with a curious individual that came and played around our zodiac and another with a big fat one asleep on a small ice floe that barely opened its eyes to acknowledge our presence.2016-12-12s-182016-12-12s-76

Shortly after returning from our morning excursion a call was made that some minke whales had been spotted on the port side, so we quickly dashed outside to see a small pod travelling at the surface. They kept their distance from the ship but gave us our best views of the voyage so far and a reasonable chance of getting a few decent record shots, I suspect they were much closer when the watch officer on the bridge spotted them!

After an alfresco lunch out on deck we had a landing at Mikkelsen Harbour, which is home to a gentoo colony and a small Argentinian refuge, which to be honest consisted of nothing more than a small hut. We also found a small haul out of Weddell seals on some ice and a couple of crab eating seals on the pebble beach which were slightly more active than previous seals we had seen. The colony had no shortage of predators either, with not only nesting skuas, but a few pairs of southern giant petrels.

Back on board we assumed that was it for the day, however an announcement was made that due to the favourable weather they were going to try for a third activity, a zodiac cruise of Spert Island. Spert Island is very rarely accessed due to its position, it is situated in open waters which are notorious for large swell, making zodiac cruising virtually impossible for much of the year. There seemed to be a real excitement amongst the crew about this site, many claiming that it was a favourite due to its unique characteristics, evidently there is nowhere else like it on the peninsular. Therefore, we delayed dinner and boarded the zodiacs once more to start our exploration of this fascinating area. As we crept closer in zodiacs, narrow waterways were revealed, providing access to a hidden network of grounded icebergs, towering archways and maze-like water. Other zodiacs created a sense of scale whilst the cape petrels nesting high in the rock arches provided the soundtrack to the iconic scene around us. On reflection, I can completely understand why there was great excitement about this site, in terms of landscape this was by far the most dramatic and unexpected, it was not what most would imagine of Antarctica.2016-12-12s-44

After dinner was complete we went back out on deck for another hour or so, just continuing to soak it all in. Words, photos and film just cannot do it justice.

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Reflecting on a magical day at Orne Harbour

The ninth day of our senior travel advisor’s trip to Antarctica involved a spot of ‘penguin gliding’ and ‘polar plunging’, in calmer conditions than one might expect from educational cruise expeditions to Antarctica like those that WILDFOOT can offer.

Day 9

To the surprise of many I had the best night’s sleep of the trip thus far and in fact only woke to the sound of my companions packing up. In my opinion there is no better way to be at one with nature than sleeping out, I would highly recommend the camping and promise you that it is not half as cold or uncomfortable as you might expect. Back on board it was time for a hot shower and a spot of breakfast before the morning landing on to Cuverville Island, thought to be one of the largest gentoo colonies. Of course, the penguins occupied us with their funny rituals and behaviour, however it was the view from the top which stole the show. Looking down over the penguin rookeries and out to sea we could spot the Sea Spirit dwarfed by huge ice bergs and surrounded by glistening brash ice, it is the shallow waters between Cuverville and Ronge islands that trap and ground these icebergs. For those that couldn’t face the quite challenging hike to the top, (due to the thick fresh snow), there was plenty to keep them occupied at the shoreline with brown sub Antarctic skuas doing their best to steal eggs from any parent who was careless enough to leave their nest unguarded. In fact there was quite a plethora of birdlife to be spotted including the southern giant petrel, Antarctic petrel, Antarctic fulmar, Wilson’s storm petrel, rock cormorant, kelp gull and the Antarctic tern.

We cruised to Orne Harbour over lunch and the weather just seemed to be going from strength to strength, there was barely a cloud in the sky and not a whisper of a breeze to be felt. Once again we had to pinch ourselves that we were actually in Antarctica, supposedly one of the harshest environments anywhere in the world, we certainly hadn’t seen any evidence of it so far. Although Orne Harbour is thought to host a hardy colony of chinstrap penguins, this afternoon’s focus was not necessarily the wildlife but the view. The view from the saddle reaches to the southern Gerlache Strait and Wiencke, Anvers and Babant Islands, it is also one of the few places where you can step on the Antarctic mainland. After a bounty of photos had been taken, many of us tried all sorts of ingenious methods of descending the mountain, the most popular being the ‘penguin slide’, face first on your stomach with your arms behind you – once again the atmosphere of the group was electric.

The daring amongst us then headed back to the boat for the famous ‘polar plunge’. Having resisted the temptation to swim in ice waters on such trips previously, I’m not quite sure what came over me today to make me do it, I can only put it down to the great sense of camaraderie that had formed between a big group of us, as they say ‘all for one and one for all’.

A perfect day was only to be topped off by a superb humpback sighting after dinner. The vessel was literally surrounded by these gentle giants, in every direction there were blows to be seen, glistening in the beautiful evening light, it was simply magical.





Plenty of whales to spot on the latest day of our Antarctic cruise

What kind of experiences could you have on an Antarctica wildlife cruise booked through WILDFOOT? Our latest set of journal entries should be giving you a lot of insight. It documents the latest trip of one of our senior travel advisers to the region, and day eight proves to be a fine one for whale spotting.

Day 8

With weather conditions still in our favour a new plan of action had been formulated overnight, and it had been decided to sail into Wilhelmina Bay for this morning’s activity as opposed to the plan that had been proposed the night before. As I headed out onto deck before breakfast, I was greeted by what I can only explain as what most would consider a ‘classic’ Antarctic scene, dark foreboding snow covered mountains, sea ice and a scattering of ice bergs. Although we didn’t have the bright blue skies of previous days, the light shafts penetrating through thick cloud made for an incredibly dramatic atmosphere. Wilhelmina Bay is renowned for its high densities of whales and true to form the first were spotted before most had dragged their sleepy heads from their beds. On reaching the end of the bay we dropped anchor and the team scouted out the area to see whether the ice sheets were stable enough to facilitate a landing, but unfortunately the verdict was negative and we embarked on a zodiac cruise instead. All eyes were peered for more whales in the glass like water, but it wasn’t meant to be. Nonetheless, we had some great interaction with some Weddell and crab eating seals that took it in turn to play amongst our zodiacs. There was also plenty to keep the birders entertained with nice sightings of the southern giant petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel, blue eyed shag, rock cormorant, south polar skua kelp gull and the Antarctic and Arctic tern. From these, the one that holds the greatest fascination for me is the Arctic tern, which makes a yearly migration to the other end of the world, it is almost incomprehensible how such a small bird can fly over 60,000 miles every year (round trip).2016-12-10s-1

Back on board, I headed out onto deck in search of more whales and it wasn’t too long before another a small group of humpbacks were spotted, but unfortunately they kept their distance so it wasn’t possible to get any clear ID shots. Shortly after lunch there is a call from the bridge to say that a couple of minke whales have been seen feeding at the edge of the sea ice, but typical to their character they are not forward in giving us a display, with only the occasional blow to be seen.


Due to some troublesome ice flows, Plan A is aborted and we work towards Plan B, a landing at Orne Islands. Orne is a small group of islands lying close north of Ronge Island, off the west coast of Graham Land which were first surveyed in 1898 by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under Gerlache, however the main attraction for us was that it would be our first opportunity to really walk in thick, pristine Antarctic snow. As usual the expedition team land first and mark out a path for us to follow, unfortunately the only suitable route to the top is up quite a steep gradient, but rest assured the effort was well rewarded with terrific panoramic views down the Gerlache Strait. There is something about stepping onto white virgin snow that brings the child out in us all, soon a very playful mood engulfs the group. With the fun and frolics over we head back to the ship for an early dinner, which is a BBQ out on deck. Once again we are astounded by the effort which goes into these occasions with a vat of mulled wine waiting for us, music, bunting tied along the outside deck and most of the waiting staff donning some sort of fancy dress attire. The reason for the early dinner is that it is camping night! Yes, that is right, some of us were crazy enough to sacrifice the warmth and comfort of our beautiful cabins in favour of digging ourselves a pit in the snow and sleeping in a bivvy bag! However, once I had snuggled into my sleeping bag (with a hot water bottle) listening only to the penguins talk amongst themselves I quickly realized I had made the right decision.


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Experiencing the magnificence of Brown Bluff

Could our senior travel adviser’s latest trip to the Antarctic become any more spellbinding? It certainly could, with their visit to the astonishing site of Brown Bluff on day seven of their holiday. Below, they detail their experiences. Enquire now to WILDFOOT about booking your own Antarctica wildlife cruise.

Day 7

I woke particularly early this morning and decided to draw back the curtains to my balcony, only to find the most picture-perfect scene before my very eyes, we were surrounded by beautiful tabular icebergs, gleaming in the early morning light. Once again, we were being treated to fabulous weather which was allowing ‘Plan A’ to be executed this morning, we were going to land at Brown Bluff! This magnificent site is known for its large penguin rockeries and dramatic scenery however it also has a notorious reputation for bad weather and quickly shifting ice flows, to the point that the Sea Spirit didn’t manage to land there last season with any level of success, making our visit even more special. Within minutes of us landing it was quite clear to see why this was a favourite site amongst the expedition staff, the sheer size of the nesting colonies was quite something to behold. Within just a few metres of the shoreline there were nesting gentoos and Adelies as far as you could see, it is thought to be one of the largest colonies on the peninsular. Despite being early in the season, we were lucky enough to see several induvials with chicks, some just a few days old. It can be somewhat overwhelming at these colonies, not knowing where to look as you are surrounded by activity, personally I think the best option is to find a suitable spot to take a seat and let the action come to you. If you keep moving from one place to another, you are likely to miss the finer intricacies of these adorable animals. These little charismatic creatures are an endless source of fascination and entertainment and quite rightly deserve the attention they get. Our landing is aborted slightly earlier than expected as the Captain spots that the ice is rapidly encroaching the ship, so thinks it is best we make a hasty exit to avoid getting blocked in – a gentle reminder that we are very much at the mercy of Mother Nature.2016-12-09s-12016-12-09s-17

Back on board lunch is served out on deck to maximize the glorious weather, these al fresco dining sessions are always well received. As we sail to our afternoon landing site of Gourdin Island we pass countless tabular icebergs, each totally unique but equally beautiful. These incredible floating towers are the result of caving in the Weddell Sea, some of the bergs we pass are three times the height of our ship and almost a kilometre in length, it is difficult to convey their sheer size in a photo alone.2016-12-09s-89

This afternoon is a split landing, two groups of fifty, as determined by IATTO’s guidelines who state that Gourdin Island is of a particularly high environmental importance and vulnerability. En route to the island, our first leopard seal is spotted playing amongst the icebergs, the speed and agility it shows in the water hinders any great photography chances unfortunately, but we are left hopeful that this might not be our only sighting of this incredible predator. As we pull up to land there are a couple of inquisitive Weddell seals waiting for us, more than happy to pose for our cameras. Gourdin Island is home to all three brushtail penguins and a small hike to the top allowed for wonderful views down the Bransfield Strait.2016-12-09s-92

Today, has certainly been a day to remember with some of the most stunningly beautiful scenery I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing and of course more penguins than I could bear to count!





penguins in antarctica Discovering the Great Wall Station and Penguin Island

Most of those who travel to the Antarctic would hope to spot penguins, and that certainly proved the case for our own travel adviser on the sixth day of their journey to the region. Read about their exploits before investigating our currently available range of Antarctic adventure cruises here at WILDFOOT.

Day 6

This morning was slightly more overcast than previous days, but certainly of no concern by Antarctic standards. After breakfast, we headed out for a zodiac cruise, where we managed to get our first glimpse of the true Antarctic penguin, the Adelie. Unlike many of the other penguins you can encounter in this region, the Adelie, is one of the few that is restricted to Antarctic coastal waters and won’t be found at high latitudes. We also managed to spot out first Weddell seal, hauled out on the ice next to a juvenile elephant seal, both relaxing as only a seal can. From here we crossed a shallow channel to make our way over to the Great Wall Station, where we had kindly been invited. The Great Wall Station was built in 1985 and is the biggest of four stations China is currently operating in Antarctica, it is operated by CHINARE, the Chinese Antarctic Program. Currently the base was running on skeleton staff as it was still considered to be their ‘winter season’ however we were assured that as of the 16th December the place would be a hive of activity as by then their ‘summer team’ of scientists would have arrived. passengers on a cruise to antarctica come in all shapes and sizes (and nationalities)

During lunch we sailed south to the aptly named ‘Penguin Island’ where the plan was to explore the rocky coastline and for those feeling energetic there was the chance to climb the Deacon Peak, which is considered a relatively fresh volcanic cone. For many, the landscape of this island came as a surprise, most people expect Antarctica to merely be ice and snow however here we were struggling to find signs of either. The island consisted of dark volcanic matter which was just starting to host its first lichens, so there was a green tinge to much of the lowlands. For those that made it to the top they were rewarded with a panoramic view which was certainly photo worthy. At the base of the volcano there were lots of whale bones to be seen, a very real reminder of the whaling that was so prevalent in this region in times gone by. Once again the wildlife was abundant with plenty of gentoo and chinstrap penguins waddling up and down the beach, posing for their adoring public and also a large haul out of elephant seals. For the birders amongst us, we were happy to spot plenty of skuas, Antarctic terns, fulmars, cape gulls, sheathbills, rock cormorants and some nesting southern giant petrels, to which we gave a very wide berth as they will desert their nests at the slightest provocation.2016-12-07s-52penguins resting on a rock in antarctica2016-12-08s-70 (1)

Although it is tempting to linger over dinner or head to the bar for a nightcap, if you want to make the most of your adventure, head out on deck at every opportunity. For most people, this is a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip and it goes by far too quickly so seize the moment. The daylight at this time of year is almost 24 hours so you will need to pace yourself, or within a few days exhaustion can set in, but being outside for as long as you comfortably can will pay dividends and it did for us tonight! This evening’s delight was in the form of some humpbacks bubble net feeding alongside our vessel, it is such a joy to watch these ocean giants working in unison at close proximity, a very humbling experience with which to end the day.

Find out about all our cruises to Antarctica here




The Drake Passage and the first sighting of an iceberg

For avid travellers interested in Antarctic expedition vacations like those we can offer here at WILDFOOT, this latest story of a journey to this incredible part of the world by one of our travel advisers should make for fascinating reading. In this blog post, our intrepid staffer reflects on days four and five of their trip.

Day 4

I woke early and made my way out on to the front deck to grab some fresh air before breakfast and was pleasantly surprised to see blue skies and relatively calm seas, were we being treated to ‘Drake Lake’ as opposed to the much feared ‘Drake Quake’, and if so, how long would it last? It so happened it lasted much of the day, we couldn’t have asked for a better crossing. Consequently, most of us spent the day flitting between the various lectures that the expedition crew were doing and out on deck looking for cetaceans and birds. Drake’s Passage is a hot spot for tubenoses and we were not disappointed with good sightings of sooty shearwaters, Wilson’s storm petrels, black-browed albatross, southern giant petrels, slender-billed prions and white-chinned petrels and one of nature’s ultimate flyers, the wandering albatross. Unfortunately, the only hint of a cetacean was a distant blow, which no one felt confident enough to give a positive ID of, however little beats the feeling of not knowing what you will see next, anticipation was high!2016-12-13s-49


Day 5

We woke up to the good news that we were slightly ahead of schedule due to the favourable weather, so an afternoon landing looked likely. Therefore, after breakfast we all headed to the lounge for the mandatory IATTO and zodiac briefing in preparation for this afternoon’s activity, this involved us being taught the ‘do and don’ts of landing in Antarctic. Mid briefing, an announcement came over the tannoy letting us know that our first iceberg, and with this the solid land of the South Shetlands, was now in sight, which as you can imagine, caused a flurry of excitement as people dashed to get cameras and get out on deck. 2016-12-12s-7

After lunch it was time to don our waterproofs and muck boots and head to the back of the boat to board the zodiacs. Our chosen landing site was Barrientos, a part of the Aitcho islands, it is situated in the English Strait between Robert and Greenwich islands and offers some of the most dramatic scenery in the South Islands. It is home to both nesting gentoo and chinstrap penguins so was the perfect starting place.




Discovering the pleasures of the Sea Spirit from Ushuaia

In this latest journal post here at WILDFOOT, we are continuing to tell the story of one of our employees’ Antarctic adventure cruises, in which we are proud to specialise. The third day of the trip sees our intrepid traveller embark on the Sea Spirit and set sail down the Beagle Channel.

Day 3

As I pulled back the curtains from the hotel room window, I could see the Sea Spirit in the harbour, gleaming in the early morning light. I could not believe my luck, day two of bright blue cloudless skies, I can assure you is not typical of Ushuaia.

After the group briefing I took the free shuttle-bus into the town centre to explore a little bit more. Unlike the day before when there were three expedition ships in the harbour, Sea Spirit was taking pride of position, being the only such moored today. Over 30 ships now take visitors down to Antarctica, it is big business nowadays, but strictly self-regulated. At WILDFOOT we feel ship and itinerary choice are very important if clients’ expectations are going to be met. Most ships belong to IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) who have operational guidelines for its members, but the environment always comes first, WILDFOOT have been a member of IATTO for many years.

After a mooch around town I just had time for one last dip in the infinity pool at the hotel before our 3.30pm transfer down to the pier, ready for embarkation. The Sea Spirit could be described as a mid-sized vessel, with her ‘small ship’ feel and ‘large ship’ quietness and stability, making her a favourite with our clients for some years. Before I knew it, I was onboard and settling into my cabin, I had kindly been allocated a veranda suite which comprised two single beds, plenty of storage space, a sofa, small desk and chair, ensuite bathroom with a shower and a small balcony with two chairs on it. There were plenty of power points for charging batteries and running laptops which is always a relief on a trip like this. I unpacked quickly as I was eager to start exploring the ship, especially the outside decks to work out the best places from which to sea watch, depending on the conditions of course! Then it was time for the welcome briefing and with my fellow shipmates we assembled in the lounge to meet the expedition team.Antarctic Cruise Vessel Sea Spirit ready to go in Ushuaiathe view from the side deck of a luxury antarctic cruise vessel

Each ship has an expedition leader, who works hand in hand with the captain of the vessel and a team to look after the passengers on board the ship, our expedition leader was Michaela Mayer from Germany. She has been leading expeditions in the polar regions since 1994 and conducted her post graduate research in marine biology and oceanography in Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica, so extremely experienced in this field of work. On this particular voyage she was leading a team of 12, who were from around the world with decades of experience between them so felt we were in very good hands, what’s more there seemed to be a great camaraderie between them so felt we were in for a fun trip.taking zodiac tour on a cruise to antarctica

We set sail at 18:00. As we headed down the Beagle Channel the mountains either side of us were illuminated by the beautiful evening light, my childhood dream of visiting Antarctica was fast becoming a reality. As I stood out on deck, furiously taking photos from either side of the boat, in an effort not to miss an inch of this incredible landscape I noted a few imperial shags and giant petrels following us. Before I knew it we were being called for dinner, as always with these types of voyages, it never ceases to amaze me the quality and freshness of the food considering the remoteness of the regions in which they take place. After dinner, I retired to the bar for a cheeky nightcap and savour the sounds of Jonny Benca, our on-board musician, the perfect way to end a day.

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Find out more about antarctic vessel ‘Sea Spirit’ here



Another voyage begins to astonishing Antarctica

Here at WILDFOOT, we are proud to be able to offer unforgettable, tailor-made and surprisingly affordable Antarctic expedition vacations. Here, we document the beginning of the latest journey to this jaw-dropping corner of the world by one of our own senior travel advisors.

Day 1

My British Airways flight arrived into Buenos Aires at 9am so I had plenty of time to traverse the city in order to catch my flight down to Ushuaia that was departing from the internal airport. As airport transfers are notoriously expensive in Argentina I decided to put the airport shuttle to the test and I must say it passed with glowing colours. I used the ‘Tienda Leon’ transfer company and was very impressed by their efficient and polite service and state of the art of buses (with Wi-Fi), especially as the 1hr 10 min journey cost me a mere 13USD, a definite top tip for future travellers!

With a few hours to kill at the airport before my 4hr flight south, it was nearly 8pm before I made it to the ‘End of the World’, aka Ushuaia. As I stepped out of the airport I savoured my first breaths of crisp, fresh Patagonian air, this is where the true adventure was going to start! I grabbed a taxi to take me to the Arakur Hotel and Spa, reportedly the best hotel in Ushuaia. It is located just outside the town, high up on the hill side, so enjoys magnificent views over the port and down the Beagle Channel. As to be expected with this calibre of hotel, the staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful in answering the many questions guests seem to have. The hotel is relatively new and is currently undergoing extensive development due to popular demand. Having done a full day of work on Friday before embarking on a succession of flights, my bed was a welcome sight tonight, to the point, I barely remember turning the light off.

Day 2

I was determined to make the most of the beautiful day that I was being blessed with so had an early breakfast and headed into town to find the tourist information office to seek guidance as to the best way to access Tierra del Fuego. Again, I can only commend the helpfulness of the staff, providing honest advice and a good handful of useful maps. On their guidance, I took the shuttle bus into the National Park (USD24 round trip plus USD13 for the entrance fee) which is about a 30min drive, depending on which drop off point you decide to opt. Honestly, I could not have asked for better where the sun was high in the sky and no hint of the ferocious wind that this region is notorious for. Map in hand, I spent the day hiking many of the trails, savouring the incredible vistas from the various look out points. The park is a birder’s paradise, amongst the species I managed to identify were kelp geese, crested and steamer ducks, rufous-chested dotterel, kelp gulls, Magellanic and blackish oystercatchers, South American terns, various caracas, dark-bellied cinclodes, Austral parakeet and rufous-backed negrito, southern giant petrel, Chilean skuas, Chilean hawk and the much sought after Magellanic woodpeckers. 2016-12-07s-7 2016-12-07s-10 2016-12-07s-22

After a long day on my feet I decided to take the advice of a colleague of mine and went to L’Estancia for dinner, a typical Argentine meat restaurant. I had possibly the sweetest, ‘melt in your mouth’ steak I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, a ‘must do’ pit stop for any meat lover!



Wrapping up an Arctic excursion…

Despite having recently left the Russian archipelago Franz Josef Land, John found an intriguing remnant of Russian history during his visit to Svalbard. Here is more about what he encountered during his final two days on the kind of Arctic cruise you can book with our wildlife travel specialists.

Day 14

This was our last day on board. In the morning, we spent time walking around the abandoned Russian mining settlement of Pyramidan. Although Spitsbergen is Norwegian, it has a special status – and other countries with a historical stake in the island still have rights of residence and other activities there, including mining.DSCN5573

There are two such Russian mining areas on the island; this one was in operation until about 1998. It then fell into disrepair; however, many of the buildings have been partly restored in recent years. In its day, it was a model Soviet settlement with a school, fully-equipped sports centre and rare heated indoor swimming pool.

We had a look around these buildings, most of which still look like everybody just walked out a few weeks ago. The outside of one of the accommodation blocks, however, has become a ‘cliff’ for nesting kittiwakes, whilst there are also wild reindeer roaming the outskirts. As the canteen remained manned, we called in for a rather smooth shot of vodka.IMG_3049

So not laid back, it’s almost vertical

We enjoyed an interesting final excursion that afternoon. Billed as a steep climb rather than a hike or walk, it turned out to be a very steep scramble up a near-vertical slope of loose scree and soft tundra. Most people sensibly gave up a little over halfway. However, of course, I – along with 5 others and our mad Russian ‘guide’ who had not actually been up there before and had just heard about it – continued up to see this ‘spectacular’ waterfall trickle emerging from the sheer rock face.

We perched with friable footholds looking at the, admittedly, beautiful scene across the fjord and the red dots of our now quite relieved companions on the shore below. We were back down more quickly than on the ascent and felt, actually, a little smug – despite the wobbly limbs and scratched hands!


Before dinner, we had an excellent slideshow with a compilation of images that the expedition photographer had taken and featured all of us and the places and experiences enjoyed. Then, a pleasant evening in good company, brought to an abrupt halt when we docked at the pier and our ‘barmaid’ rang a bell to tell us that no more drinks could be served. We were back in Norway and that country has some quite strict alcohol sale/consumption laws!

Day 15

After breakfast, we disembarked and went by bus to the airport to wait for our flight from Longyearbyen to Oslo. The departure lounge was absolutely chocker with passengers from our ship and the Ponant ship, which also disembarked that day. Most of their passengers were on a charter to Paris, whilst the rest of us were on the very full flight to Oslo.IMG_3073

Time for farewells and to reflect on the intense experiences in Franz Josef Land, what a superb couple of weeks…



Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago Cruise

In John’s previous report of his recent Arctic adventure, he focused on a visit to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. In this update, he tells us more about what he got up to there. Remember that here at WILDFOOT, we can arrange for you to enjoy a luxury Arctic cruise like this.DSCN5532

Day 13

Monday. After leaving the islands of the northeast, we steamed at 14kt over the top of the Svalbard archipelago and down the west coast of the main island, Spitsbergen. This name came from the early Dutch explorer, Barents, and literally translates as ‘pointed mountains’. We could see why – for hours, we watched jagged peaks, bisected by glaciers as we headed south.

We could not land on the island anywhere without guns, because of the threat of polar bears; however, we were not allowed to have any firearms on board when entering Russian waters. So, the expedition leader decided that we should, rather than just make Zodiac excursions along the coast, instead sail at full speed back to Longyearbyen and pick up guns. This would enable us to at least make two landings on our last full day, tomorrow.

A relaxing break from all of the exploring

So, it was decided that we would arrive in Longyearbyen late that evening and then continue on up the Isfjord. This meant that Monday was spent very much at leisure, skipping breakfast and sleeping in, attending a couple of talks and enjoying the early farewell cocktail party. This was a delightful, relaxed affair, where we enjoyed a couple of martinis before dinner in good company.

Later, the German-speaking group on board took over the bar and enjoyed a boisterous pyjama party, whilst we watched The Red Tent, a 1960s film about the Nobile airship expedition to the North Pole. Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale, Peter Finch and Hardy Kruger star in the film, which is very dated but quite entertaining.

Then, we returned to the bar for a series of nightcaps with our new friends – even after all this time, we have not really become accustomed to the fact that it is still broad daylight – quite disorientating!