Here, John continues the story of what he got up to during his recent trip to Franz Josef Land, an archipelago in the Russian High Arctic. You can look forward to some Arctic wildlife viewing of your own when you book with us here at WILDFOOT – but first, John has more to tell you.
Wednesday. This morning, we landed on Champ Island, where there are numerous large spherical stones and some smaller ones, too – it seems that there used to be a lot more, but earlier explorers and visitors took them away as specimens and souvenirs. Nevertheless, the immovable big ones are impressive.
Kittiwakes, Arctic foxes, walruses and polar bears
We then Zodiaced around under bird cliffs that, this time, were teeming with kittiwakes. Beneath these cliffs’ slopes are big patches of green vegetation fed by the birds’ guano. This is also the habitat of Arctic foxes, which patrol the bottom of the cliffs looking for fallen chicks and eggs. The day before, we saw a fox, with its white winter fur showing in patches as well as its summer brown – but we didn’t see any of these creatures on Wednesday.
Over lunch, we sailed on to nearby Hayes Island and took a pretty lumpy Zodiac ride over to the shore and the surrounding ice pack’s edge. We could see lots of walruses out on the ice and in the sea, but weren’t prepared for the sight of three polar bears. One big male was chewing on the remains of a walrus carcas near the shore, while a little way off was a younger bear lying in the snow, waiting with the kittiwakes for his share. We watched him/her take over when the older bear got bored.
Then, we saw another bear wandering around, uninterested in the food – we followed him along the shore and now and then, he stopped and posed for photographs. Mind you, that wasn’t as easy as it reads, because of the very choppy water. As we cruised around, lots of walruses kept popping up around us – very entertaining.
The day was just getting into its stride…
We were out for about two hours – and by the end of this time, it was pretty cold, with the wind and the spray, so we were all happy to get back to the ship for a hot chocolate. Keep an eye on this blog to learn even more about what happened on the eighth day of my expedition.