One of the reasons for embarking on this adventure was to see wildlife, as up close as possible, in all the glory of its natural habitat.
But we quickly realised the Arctic is very different to the Antarctic
In Antarctica, spotting wildlife, often gathered in huge groups, is more or less guaranteed. It's just, well, sitting there and you can easily and safely (I'm fairly sure I've never heard of anyone being mauled to death by a penguin) walk amongst it.
Whilst the Arctic has a wider variety of animal life than that found at the southern pole, it's generally much more elusive. The land in the Arctic isn't particularly productive so large concentrations of animals are few and far between. Also, predators, like polar bears, tend to have very large ranges in order to be able to find food and sustain life.
Consequently, in the Arctic, it's more a case of being lucky (or, as is the more common experience, unlucky) in spotting wildlife.
We were very fortunate to come across the herd of walrus in the previous post. There were also several sightings of pods of whales (humpbacks, killers, greys), some sticking close to the ship as it made its journey across Arctic waters, all proving so very hard to photograph (certainly with my limited kit and skills).
Birds were present for much of the voyage. White gulls, the pretty little snow bunting, puffins and the instantly recognisable Arctic tern, with its distinctive red body parts, spotted on the little island of Gyldenoyane. So elegant in flight, these small, almost swallow-like, seabirds make the longest migration in the animal kingdom, flying between breeding grounds in the Arctic and their winter home in the Antarctic every single year. With a lifespan of 30 years or more, researchers have estimated that, over its lifetime, an Arctic tern migrates about 1.5 million miles. Apparently, that equates to three trips to the moon and back.
Dense colonies of the Brünnich’s guillemot had made their home on the 100m high cliffs at Alkerfjellet, with thousands of breeding pairs seemingly occupying every precarious square inch. Females each lay a single egg on the bare rock at about the same time, so that the hatching of chicks, and, after three weeks or so, their jumping (sometimes falling) off the narrow ledges into the sea, is highly synchronised. A parent bird, usually dad, immediately joins the fledgling in the water and the pair will stick together for about eight weeks.
But every visitor to the Arctic has their fingers crossed for a sighting of a polar bear.