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Norway Fjords and Svalberg
We enjoyed our Linblad/National Geographic cruise to the Faulklands, South Georga and Antarctic so much we jumped at the chance to take another Linblad/National Geographic cruise, this time to the Arctic – specifically the fjords of Norway and Svalbard, the large islands north of the Arctic Circle. This entitled us to the title of bipolar – in a geographic rather than mental sense. The cruise was from May 20 to June 3, 2015. The following is a list of the places visited with relevant maps.
1. Bergen. We flew from LA to London to Bergen with an overnight stay at the Radison Blue where the group met. This gave us a chance to explore Bergen and ascend the funicular for a vista view of Bergen. We boarded the ship at 4 PM. Since the time of sunrise and sunset provide a unique insight into how north we were these times will be given at the different destinations.
Sunrise 0448 Sunset 2225 (10:25 PM)
2. Nordfjord Olden and the Briksdal Glacer. We traversed the long Nordfjord south of Alesund, to the town of Oden. From here we boarded buses which took us to one of the branches of the giant Jostedalsbreen glacier – Europe’s largest mainland glacier.
Sunrise 0430 Sunset 2243 (10:43 PM)
3. Smola Island. Is a small island near Trondheim, Norway. We visited a fishing village on the north end of the island- Veilholmen. While posted as an “active fishing village,” despite many beautiful houses the only life most of us saw was a friendly cat. Because of the strong winds on Smola Island it was the site of many wind turbines.
Sunrise 0406 Sunset 2247. (10:47 PM)
4. Vega Island and Lomsdal/Visten National Park. Vega Island is the realm of the beautiful Eider Duck with its famous Eider down. For more than 1,000 years the inhabitants of Vega Island have gathered seaweed and laid it out to form nests for the Eider duck. The Eider down left in the nests is then cleaned and process to form the famous Eider down comforters. It is located between Trondheim and Bode. We visited the small community of Nes on the north end of the island.
Sunrise 0328 Sunset 2300 (11 PM)
5. Nordfjord – Melford - Traena Nordfjord is a small fjord, branching northward from the larger Melford fjord. It is south of Bode. As the ship progresses the walls get closer and closer to the ship. The ship docked in Traena where we visited the Arctic Circle monument.
Sunrise 0244 Sunset 2330 (11:30 PM)
6. Lofoten Islands: Vaeroya and Reine. Reine is a small cod fishing village with many cod drying racks scattered throughout the village. It is just north of Bode.
Sunrise 0212 Sunset – the sun does not fully set.
7. Tysfjorden, Trollfjord Trollfjord had the narrowest walls of any of the fjords we visited. So close that the captain was able to maneuver the ship close enough for a female intern to get a leaf from a tree on shore. Tysfjorden is one of the largets fjord systems of Northern Norway. On one arm we walked to a site of prehistoric (9,000 years ago) animal figures etched into the rocks.
Sunrise none Sunset none. This is the case for all subsequent locations.
8. Tromso. Tromso is the historic starting point of many Arctic expeditions. The beautiful Arctic Cathedral and the Polar Museum are particular highlights.
9. Bear Island. Bear island, also called Bjfroya, is a sanctuary to a huge number of sea birds, located between Norway and Svalbard. Very few Arctic cruses ever visit this island. One of the features that attracted me to this cruise was that a visit to this island was planned. We had outstandingly wonderful weather for all of the trip but Bear Island is located at the conjunction between warm waters from the south and cold waters from the arctic. As a result it is often shrouded in mist and this time was no exception. Despite this it was a remarkable visit with many sea birds on its cliffs.
Svalbard was formerly known by its Dutch name Spitsbergen. It is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands were first taken into use as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway. They also established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone.
10. Hornsund, Southwestern Spitsbergen Hornsund is the southernmost fjord system along the southwestern side of Spitsbergen.
11. Hamburgbukta & Damskoya Island. These sites are located in the area of Svalbard known as Albert I Land, after Prince Albert of Monaco.
12. Hinlopen Strait and the Alkefjellet cliffs. Other than the many polar bear sightings, the Alkefjellet cliffs one of the highlights of the trip. It is the site of many thousands of Brunnick’s Guillemots.
13. Northern Spitsbergen, Haakon II Land, Woodfjord, Monabobreen Glacier, Moffin Island.
Of especial interest to me were the many thousands of Little Auks in this region. Also of interest were the many walruses on Moffen Island.
14. Krossfjorden We visit an area called Stefan’s Garden with many wild flowers. The site is also rich in bird life including Atlantic Puffins, Barnicle Geese, and Common Eider.
15. Longyearbyen. Our journey ends in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalberg. The town was established by and named after John Munro Longyear, whose Arctic Coal Company started coal mining operations in 1906. After a tour of the town and visit to the local museum we depart for Oslo, and then to Iceland for a 6 day birding tour.