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Cruise Day 7 - 2 polar bears, fin and blue whales

View In the Realm of the Ice Bear - Svalbard 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

At some stage in the night, we left the ice floes behind and headed south. We were still 'driving dodgems' as I went to bed last night, hitting a particularly large frozen block just as I was getting up from the table, jarring my back in the process.

I take advantage of a travel-only morning to wash my hair, knowing that we won't be called on to go out in the zodiacs (not good with wet hair). I can't ever remember my hair being quite so matted. Being tied up at all times, and taking my hat on and off numerous times a day has taken its toll on it, and I struggle for a long time to get my comb through it this morning, leaving a large ball of hair behind.

Bears 14 & 15

My backside is getting increasingly sore from sitting on a hard surface all the time (the only comfortable seats on this ship are in the crew saloon), and despite having a solid eight hours of sleep I feel completely knackered this morning; so after breakfast, I tell Leiv that I am going back to bed, and to be sure to wake me for polar bears. 'We'll be there in 30 minutes' he says, so I stay. Just as well, as a mere ten minutes later we get the now familiar "Polar bear, get ready for the zodiacs" call.




There are two bears on the beach near the carcass of a walrus, and they couldn't be more different: one is reasonably clean, with a cream-coloured coat, the sort of colour you'd expect a polar bear to have. The other one might as well be a brown bear, as he is covered in so much walrus blubber that his coat is dark brown in places, especially on his legs and bum.



As we reach the beach, I notice my camera is firing on manual focus, despite the lens showing as being set to automatic. I slide the AF-MF switch a few times. No difference. I dial in various focus settings on the camera, still manual focus. By now I am panicking, thinking I shall miss the whole experience. I try to take some shots while focussing manually, but that really doesn't work in a moving zodiac. Eventually, I turn the camera off and back on again, and that seems to do the trick! Phew. I later find out from Gunnat that this can happen when you take your camera from a warm place into the cold and if switching it on and off doesn't work, taking the battery out and putting it back in again should do the trick. Useful to know.

The white (ish) bear soon walks off, climbing up the hill, leaving us with the dirty one.



He is still hungry and proceeds to the remains of what once was a walrus. The stench from the carcass is so putrid that it turns my stomach, but it doesn't seem to deter the bear. We watch him for the best part of an hour, as he tries to pull out the remainder of blubber and any other tasty morsels that might be left on this rotting dead animal. No wonder they often have diarrhoea.


When the bear circles around his dining table and turns his bum to us, it is time to leave. The fog is closing in now, giving an eerie atmosphere, Apparently, the glaciers here create a circle of dry cold air, which usually results in the bay area around the bear(s) being reasonably mist-free


From here we have a long journey ahead before we reach the next planned destination, ETA some time between 22:00 and midnight, so we have some downtime now. Lots of downtime. Too much downtime. This is what I don't like about cruises, although here it is a necessity and has been worth it, but it has helped make me decide that I won't do another cruise for a very long time. With up to ten hours of just sailing, now is the time to catch up on some sleep. My back has been getting progressively worse as time has gone on here, so I retire to bed with my ice pack which the crew has kindly kept ice cold in the freezer for me.



We have an interesting combination for this evening's meal: turkey dinner, with Brussels sprouts, creamy gravy, boiled potatoes (obviously), lingonberries, and.... melon salad.


I think Ellen calls the dessert Pineapple Tosca: slices of pineapple with an almond topping, served with a really creamy and tasty vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.



We've just finished the dessert when Mikel pops in to say there is a fin whale off the starboard side of the ship. All out. I spend a great deal of time on the top deck, trying to catch the whale as it surfaces, it being rather difficult to estimate where it is likely to come up. There are three fin whales in total and they surface many, many times.

The steps to the top deck


It's as if they are performing for us, it is quite incredible to see. The captain tells us he has never seen such a display before in all his years at sea! Sometimes they are right by the boat, as you can see from David's videos:

We finally go back inside, take our coats off, sit down, and I pick up the rum and coke that I abandoned earlier, which is now very watered down with the large chunk of glacier ice that Gustav put in.

Rum and Coke with glacier ice

This time it is Leiv who interrupts the peace: three blue whales. For a different viewpoint, I go to the bow of the ship this time, and while they don't come up to blow very often, I do manage to get a picture I am happy with.


Finally, at 23:30 we stumble into bed, knowing full well that we may be woken up again in just a few hours, as we are heading to the beach where we saw a walrus carcass (but no bears) on the way up. Vide will only wake us if there are bears there, and I confess to secretly hoping there are no bears so that I can sleep through.


Thank you to Arctic Wildlife Tours for this amazing adventure of a lifetime.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:10 Archived in Svalbard Tagged wildlife polar_bears whales dinner safari mist bears svalbard arctic isbjørn origo spitzbergen walrus_carcass ice_floes arctic_wildlife arctic_wildlife_tours tommelbreen pack_ice ice_bear zodiacs blue_whale fin_whale

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More fantastic bear photos, especially that face-on, tongue-out shot 😮 And how wonderful to see whales so close too :

by ToonSarah

Thank you so much, Sarah, that shot is possibly my favourite polar bear picture from the trip.

by Grete Howard

I can quite see that it would be!

by ToonSarah

Wow, you guys had so much luck seeing all those animals and even whales too!

by Ils1976

We sure did, our guide said it was one of the best trips ever in terms of sightings. Thank you for your kind comments, Ils.

by Grete Howard

no worries, I just love to read about it! :)

by Ils1976

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