Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Arctic Adventure - 1

Tuesday 3nd August 2010

My Arctic pictures are here.

I slept pretty well and was up before six, discovering some other early risers in the Panorama Lounge where self-service tea and coffee with light snacks had been provided. Breakfast started at 7.0 a.m. with hot and cold buffet plus specially-prepared items to order. We were still sailing north as I started breakfast but around 7.30 a.m. we anchored off Storstappen Island on schedule.

We were to take a Zodiac Cruise around the island which is a wildlife sanctuary and passengers had been divided into four groups. I was in Group 2 which, with Group 1, was to board the Zodiacs at 8.00 a.m. There was a little delay filtering us in groups of about eight onto each of the Zodiacs. The 'suites' each have a credit card electronic room key which is also used to monitor your leaving the ship. A member of the crew 'swipes' your room key as you leave and again as you return.

My Zodiac had a driver, the ship's official photographer, an American couple, a young British Couple, the British couple I met at dinner last night and myself.

We spent a mesmerising hour and a bit sailing close to the rocky cliffs, studying the bird life. At this time of year, there can be up to a million puffins on the island. They dig shallow burrows for the single egg the female lays each season and the air is full of puffins flying out from the cliffs to catch sand eels. They can store around 20 fish in their bill, returning to the burrow to deposit the fish for the chick. There are many other species including sand pipers, guillemots, cormorants and kittiwakes. Perhaps most impressive was the sea eagles, always cruising around up high on the lookout for food. During our trip, we saw at least a dozen of these magnificent creatures. On the way back to the ship, we cautiously approached a large flock perhaps one thousand puffins, just sitting on the water. Eventually, they flew away, wave after wave of these rather improbable creatures passing overhead. It was dry for most of the trip but a heavy drizzle started on the way back. This didn't diminish my enjoyment of a remarkable experience.