In an earlier blog post, John recalled his enjoyable time spent in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago. However, that was only the start of his journey to Franz Josef Land. Here is a follow-up account of what else he came across on the way there.
An undoubtedly cosmopolitan group of passengers
I’ve had a fun start to my expedition in the Russian High Arctic, where the Sea Spirit is the ship transporting me. My experience certainly leads me to recommend Arctic cruises in the Svalbard, but my fellow passengers and I had much more than the ship itself to check out.
On the first Friday of my journey, following the previous night’s briefings and safety drill, there was our first dinner. There were various nationalities on board, including Germans, Australians, Kiwis, Israelis, Dutch, Swiss and other Brits.
Even though we were tired, it was really quite difficult going to bed because of the bright sunlight. I have been there before in the midnight sun, but still strange! We also saw our first whale, a humpback blowing and then diving, showing a beautiful fluke.
Close encounters of the bird kind
We made one stop on the way, off a small island called Moffen, where we saw a haul-out of walruses about 300 yards distant. We also saw a few seabirds, including some puffins and Brünnich’s guillemots. Otherwise, it was a day of briefings, lectures and food.
After dinner, we had a call that we were passing the last point of land in Svalbard, Christian XII Island. The snow-capped mountains were now receding into the distance and the sun continued to shine brightly as we thought of sleep. We were now higher than 80 degrees north!
What did I get up to in Franz Josef Land?
In my story so far, we have only just reached Franz Josef Land, which is administered by Russia. However, it won’t be long before I tell you a lot more about what I saw and did on this Arctic archipelago. I can’t wait!