June 18 - Breaking the Ice

Around 10:00 AM in the middle of our lecture, Glacial Landscapes of Russia, given by Colin Souness., we felt a bump and then there was an announcement: “Polar Bear sighting at 12:00″.

Taking a break from the lecture we all ran to see our first Polar Bear! Each Polar Bear has its own personality and this one was quite curious to see what this huge thing was that was coming towards her (we think it was a female). She came closer and closer to us and stopped quite a bit to look up at us.. After a while, she became bored and walked away.. What a beautiful animal!

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  Our first polar bear visitor

Our first polar bear visitor

Colin continues his lecture on Glaciers. Each glacier has accumulation (input) and loss (output). Fresh snow accumulates and through compression and recrystallizing forcing the snow downhill. Not all glaciers are white. There is a lot of debris within the glacier and some glaciers are totally debris. There is permafrost in the layers of some of the glaciers.

  A map of ice cover on land

A map of ice cover on land

  The world's ice cover 140,000 years ago

The world's ice cover 140,000 years ago

  The world's ice cover 20,000 years ago

The world's ice cover 20,000 years ago

  The image on the left is a debris glacier and on the right is an example of permafrost layers within a glacier.

The image on the left is a debris glacier and on the right is an example of permafrost layers within a glacier.

In the distance we spot the blowhole of a Bow Head Whale, one of the oldest living whales in existence. Arctic Whales have no dorsal fin and a very large and strong head to break the ice.

  The blowhole of the Bow Head Whale.

The blowhole of the Bow Head Whale.

  The Bow Head Whale captured by one of our expedition leaders, Jimmy.

The Bow Head Whale captured by one of our expedition leaders, Jimmy.

Two male walruses are lying on the ice. A female and her cubs dove into the water after noticing that there was a polar bear about 2 miles away. Polar bears normally will not attack a walrus.  The skin of a Walrus is 1 inch thick and too much of the Polar Bear’s energy would be used to prey on such thick skin.. Much better to eat a seal.

  Walruses

Walruses

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The ice pack is magnificent. When we break it, it falls and becomes a puzzle of a thousand pieces, exposing the deep blue water. Ultraviolet light waves bounce off the ice and expose that end of the spectrum. A feast for the soul.

Watching this movement is like listening and feeling an orchestra. Each instrument contributes to the whole sound and feel of the moment.

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  Breaking through the ice

Breaking through the ice

While we travel through the ice, glaucous gulls fly above, catching the wind generated by our boat. 

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We approach Franz Joseph land from the south and stop in front of Cape Flora which has been the site of many explorations both failed and successful. Jackson’s expedition on the Eira in 1872 was one of the successful expeditions and remnants the camp still remain. 

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  The remains of buildings on Cape Flora.

The remains of buildings on Cape Flora.

Traveling a little further into Franz Joseph Land, we stop in front of Rubini Rock.

This is the best place in the Arctic for the Guillimot, Kittiwake, and Glaucous Gull to nest. This enormous volcanic rock provides ledges for these birds to nest and since it surges directly out of the ocean there is no beach. This allows them to breed without the threat of predators.

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We watch and listen to the fantastic sounds emanating from this rock.