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Svalbard with the MS Quest


Saturday, 07/25/2015


After most of the guests had arrived in Longyearbyen late the night before  and had started the day calmly, it was fine at noon  with our guide Christian on a walk through Adventdalen. Most of the birds have already left their nests, but some barnacle geese, snow buntings, sandpipers, arctic terns and northern gulls could still be seen. Christian told a lot of interesting things about Longyearbyen municipality and its history. The weather was pleasant, dry, 5 degrees, light wind.


Sunday, 07/26/2015


In the morning we went on a small bus tour through Longyearbyen with Christian. Also the small church and the very beautiful Svalbard gallery were visited.  After lunch at the hotel, we went to the Svabard Museum, which is well worth seeing. And then it was finally time. At 4 p.m. it was “Welcome aboard” on the MS Quest. We got to know the expedition team and the captain and received theoretical and practical safety training.

After dinner, the MS Quest docked in Barentsburg. Local guides showed us their home - a quirky place worth visiting. A beer in the northernmost brewery in the world is also highly recommended. At 11:30 p.m., everyone was back on board and fell contentedly into their beds.


Monday, 07/27/2015


The very first day of our expedition should show that plans are there to be thrown overboard. The meeting planned for the morning in the lounge was very short, because a polar bear had appeared on the beach at Ebelthofhamna. The plan was changed without further ado, the Zodiacs were lowered into the water and all the guests jumped into their rubber boots and life jackets. It was already off to the first excursion. The bear had meanwhile walked a bit along the beach and we carefully followed it on the water. He looked interested and finally began to climb up a rocky slope. With its light-colored fur, it offered a great contrast on the dark rock and was easy to spot, even without binoculars and a telephoto lens.

We watched the bear for a while and then continued to the bird cliffs in July 14th Bay. Here we could observe thick-billed guillemots and puffins in the rocks. Glaucous gulls and barnacle geese were also seen. There was also a group of reindeer with some young animals on land.


The next highlight was not far. The July 14th glacier with its huge blue and white cliff edge and a lot of floating glacier ice offered further grandiose photo motifs. While a group went on a short hike, two Zodiacs, equipped with ambitious photographers, drove far into the ice. Back on board, there was lunch before the meeting, which had been too short in the morning, was continued.

The next cityion was called Ny-Alesund. We spent a relaxed afternoon in the northernmost settlement in the world and, to everyone's delight, the clouds that had accompanied us up to here made way for sun and a bright blue sky. The faces were beaming like the sun and we thought the day couldn't get any better when the on-board announcement sounded "Beluga whales at 11 o'clock". Thus, the meeting planned before dinner was done. We stood spellbound on deck and watched as elegant white backs rose out of the water as if in unison. Now the day was really perfect and there was a relaxed atmosphere at dinner. So many highlights on the first day - we were  excited to see what happens tomorrow!


Tuesday, 07/28/2015


were overnight  we drove into the Krossfjord region and in the morning a mirror-smooth sea in the diffuse light awaited us. So the first Zodiac tour started right after breakfast. We visited the Andøyane archipelago. In the afternoon we went to Eric Breen and Monaco Breen (Breen means glacier). 2 Zodiacs went on a glacier photo tour with Norbert Rosing while the other 3 Zodiacs landed on the beach and split into 2 hiking groups. There were many beautiful flowers and mosses here, as well as a glacial lake. The "adventure group" around guide Christian ran right up to the glacier and spared no effort. The word of the day was "Fliesserde". Some of the travelers became acquainted with this when they sank ankle-deep in moving, quicksand-like mud. At least now it was clear to everyone "We're on an expedition!"

Back on board, the different groups had a lot to talk about over dinner. While the last glasses of wine or cups of coffee were being drunk, Elke's on-board announcement came: "A bear was sighted on the beach". Everyone was quickly packed up again and gathered on the outer decks. While the bear ran starboard on the beach and unfortunately moved away, minke whales appeared on the port side. These also disappeared quickly, but were immediately replaced by a swimming walrus. Nobody expected so many animal visits after dinner. To top it all off, the sun came out from behind the clouds and spoiled us with great light.

Another excursion was also on the agenda. Once again we went into the Zodiacs and we visited the legendary hut of Christiane Ritter, who wintered here with her husband and another trapper colleague in 1934 and wrote down her experiences in the book "A woman experiences the polar night". Afterwards, Peter read a few excerpts from the book in the lounge, while the audience indulged in thought with a drink or two including ice cubes brought from the glacier. Another eventful day had passed and we could  hard to believe we've only been at sea for 2 days  was.


Wednesday, 07/29/2015


At around 2 a.m. we drove to Hinlopenstrasse. Unfortunately, we were accompanied by a storm and strong waves, making it a rather uncomfortable night for most of the guests. By morning the storm had already subsided. However, the view from the window did not bode well – thick fog and drizzle. The planned Zodiac tour on Alkefjellet was therefore cancelled. Instead, our captain put his navigational skills to the test and guided the quest to within a few meters of the huge bird cliffs where thousands of thick-billed guillemots are raising their young. Twice he led us very slowly from left to right past the rock faces on the observation deck, giving us enough time to observe the birds and capture them with the camera.


After lunch there was time for a little nap to make up for the lack of sleep that night. Afterwards we packed up the Zodiacs and went to Walbergøya, where about 15 walruses had made themselves comfortable on the beach. The animals were absolutely not disturbed by us and everyone was able to take great photos, whether with their own camera or with the rental equipment from AC-Photo/Canon.

Back on board, most travelers made themselves comfortable in the lounge with a hot cup of tea or coffee and a good book. At around 5:15 p.m., Elke's voice came through the loudspeakers again: "There's a bear on an ice floe at 1 a.m.!" Everyone stormed out and those who had the telephoto lens ready could take a few pictures. However, the quest didn't drive any closer to the bear because he was very skinny, had an injury to his shoulder, and we didn't want to risk disturbing the animal. Unfortunately, this bear, probably a female bear, was a sad sight, but that too is part of arctic nature.

In the evening, the quest was surrounded by thick fog, there was nothing to see and since there were no other lectures on the program, there was time to sort through photos, read or have nice conversations in the lounge.


Thursday, 07/30/2015


In the morning there was thick fog and the quest had already changed course early in the morning. It was now heading north again. The morning started comfortably in the lounge with a lecture by Chris about studying the Arctic Nature Guide in Longyearbyen. At noon the fog had cleared and surprisingly we had already reached the pack ice limit.

The quest anchored at the Hochstetterbreen. Here we climbed into the Zodiacs under a blue sky, sun and a pleasant 6 degrees and started an expedition through the ice. The icebergs with the reflections in the water offered fantastic photo opportunities. To our surprise we landed on a large ice floe and had a small picnic with chocolate. There was a relaxed atmosphere, but then more ice floes came closer and a thick wall of fog also came closer. So we quickly made our way back. The guides carefully paved our way through the increasingly dense pack ice. The quest had now disappeared into the fog and was no longer visible. When a signal sounded and we briefly recognized our floating home in the gray soup, everyone was relieved. The Zodiacs were loaded back onto the ship and the quest made its way through the ice.


By the afternoon we had left the fog behind and were spoiled by the sun and a wonderful view of the Austfonna. A photo presentation by Marcus was to take place before dinner. It had just started when Elke announced: “Polar bear ahead!” As we got closer, we recognized a mother and her cub on the iceberg. Very slowly and quietly we drove past the two and enjoyed the scene with perfect photo light.

At dinner, all guests and guides had a smile on their faces. No further program was necessary today, the experiences had to be digested first. Some guests did this by making themselves comfortable with chairs and cold drinks on the "sun deck", because the sun was still shining wonderfully warm. This is how the eventful day ended in a relaxed manner.


Friday, 07/31/2015


Thanks to a few night owls, who enjoyed the Svalbard midnight sun on deck until 1:30 a.m., the rest of the "family" enjoyed being woken up by the expedition leader Elke's voice, because a blue whale had been sighted. Eyes weary but cameras at the ready, one by one they appeared on deck and admired the blue whale's blow and great gray back. Unfortunately, the sea giant didn't show its fluke, but getting up was still worth it, because it was an impressive experience.

The rest of the night was also short, because at 06:45 the next wake-up call sounded. A polar bear had been spotted in the pack ice. Everyone was awake in no time and one or the other was still in their pajamas under their thick jacket when they appeared on deck armed with binoculars and a telephoto lens. What followed was a wonderful two-hour observation of a magnificent male polar bear, who was undisturbed while having breakfast on the ice floe. He had bagged a fat Bearded Seal which he was now eating with relish, accompanied by 4 Ivory Gulls. The sun played into our hands once again and offered ideal lighting conditions for taking photos.

In the morning, the quest continued to make its way through the ice, according to Elke's motto "Ice is nice" And the plan worked! Around 10:30 a.m. the next bear appeared in front of the ship. This offered us a real show. First he swam straight towards the ship, then we realized he was heading for an ice floe where a bearded seal was lounging in the sun. What followed was a thriller of the most exciting kind. The bear slowly swam around the floe and approached the seal from behind. Then he dived. Everyone held their breath, and for a moment there was no whispering or camera clicking on deck. Then the seal slipped from its floe into the saving water. Shortly thereafter, a disappointed-looking polar bear climbed onto the floe and sniffed the spot where it had just smelled its lunch. He sat there sadly for a while, then set off again and, completely unfazed by our ship, continued to swim through the ice.


An arctic adventure was on the agenda for the afternoon. At 80°38`5"N and 20°24`1"E 15 the Quest had found a wonderful place for a swim between the ice floes and 16 brave swimmers jumped into the cool water. To warm up, the on-board doctor distributed vodka.


Saturday, August 1st, 2015


This time the whales really came in the middle of the night. At 4:15 a.m. the lovely wake-up call sounded, which, however, was only followed by half of the travelers. They had the pleasure of observing two blue whales and several fin whales. The second wake-up call at 05:45 was followed by more tired faces on deck, and a blue whale was close to the ship again. Anyone who went to bed afterwards was lured again through the loudspeakers an hour before the usual wake-up time, because fin whales showed up again, this time very close to the ship.


Various photos had already been taken at breakfast. After such a promising start, things obviously had to go well. No sooner had all the coffee cups at the breakfast table been emptied than the next announcement sounded that a bear had been spotted in the ice. So back into the clothes, camera and binoculars around your neck and off to deck. The bear, a beautiful, well-fed male, slept peacefully on a large ice floe enclosed by thick pack ice. So the Quest couldn't get really close, but we still watched the bear from a distance and anyone with binoculars or a telephoto lens in front of their eyes could watch the bear doing his morning "yoga exercises". He stretched out with relish, stretched out on all fours and let the sun shine on his stomach. A really beautiful picture. We spent almost two hours at the place until the bear decided to get up and go on his way.

After lunch, most of the night's diligent whale watchers took a little nap before finally heading back into the Zodiacs at 3pm. Great pictures were taken and the fresh arctic air was enjoyed on a tour of the pack ice under blue skies and sunshine. Since today the northernmost point of the trip was reached at 81°08'54", there was a surprise in the lounge, a glass of sparkling wine and, for those who swam yesterday in the -0.9°C cold water, a certificate with a photo as proof. The day was rounded off by a lecture by Norbert Rosing after dinner.


Sunday, August 2nd, 2015


Today we were planning to land and hike on the Buchanan Peninsula and were looking forward to stretching our legs. However, our obligatory breakfast bear thwarted the plans. He was sighted at around 6:45 am swimming directly towards our ship. Quickly pull the thermal clothing over your pajamas and get out on deck! Mr. Polar Bear calmly swam past the ship and then went ashore on the very beach where we actually wanted to land the Zodiacs. So again plan B!

Elke drove off alone to locate the bear. Since he was still on the island three quarters of an hour later, the decision was made to take a Zodiac Cruise towards Raudfjord Glacier instead of the hike and catch more views of the bear along the way. There we received beautiful photo motifs of ice and various birds. The two Zodiacs of Elke and Kerstin landed on the stone beach after all to dare a short walk on the glacier ice. They had barely been walking for 10 minutes when Christian radioed in that the bear had been seen again and was now swimming towards them. So it was called an orderly retreat to the Zodiacs. But there was no danger, because the bear was still far enough away and decided to land somewhere else. As we drove past, we were able to take another picture of him.

At lunch one had the feeling that a whole day had already passed, but there were still several program items ahead of us! After a short breather, we went to the little auk colony at Fuglesongen in glorious summer weather with double-digit temperatures. Here we were able to sit on warm rocks in the sun in our t-shirts (!!) and watch and photograph the cute birds up close. A wonderful experience!


At dinner there was a great atmosphere and then another highlight followed. The quest had gone to the glacier Svitjodbreen - Schwedengletscher and here the Zodiacs were lowered into the water again. A wonderful evening tour followed in front of the very active glacier. He grumbled and cracked and smaller and larger pieces broke out again and again. On the way back, the quest shone in the evening sun surrounded by fresh, glittering glacial ice. The last night owls sat on the front deck in the midnight sun until after 2 a.m.


Monday, 08/03/2015


The first surprise of the day: we were allowed to sleep until 07:38 because no polar bear or whale had been sighted yet. That was a good thing, since some of the tour participants were on deck until after 2 a.m. last night to take advantage of the special light when the sun was low around 1:30 a.m. for more photos.


After breakfast we visited the historic sites of Virgohamna on Danskøya and Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya and learned about the history of whaling on Svalbard. There were also some walruses lying on the beach, who didn't let themselves be disturbed during their afternoon nap.

In the afternoon the Quest entered the beautiful Magdalenefjord. Here 2 Zodiacs went on a glacier cruise while 2 other groups went hiking on land. In fantastic Spitsbergen weather we walked in T-shirts and even barefoot on the sandy beach. With this summer feeling, Sara did not miss the opportunity to spontaneously go swimming again and even climbed on a small iceberg.

Back on board there was another surprise - dinner was served on deck today in the form of a barbeque. There was beer, wine and music. It turned out to be a great party, Hawaiian shirts danced next to Norwegian sweaters and rubber boots next to sandals. It was the first day without a polar bear, but still a beautiful day with many highlights!


Tuesday, 08/04/2015


On the last day of the expedition, the sun had hidden behind the clouds and the still nice - dry and 8°C - but somewhat gray weather suited the mood on board exactly. Although we still had a nice day ahead of us, it was clear that it would be the last day of an all-round perfect trip.

In the morning we landed at the Alkhornet and hiked in several small groups on the beautiful green tundra covered with moss and flowers. Some Svalbard reindeer, some with huge antlers, came very close to us and posed for the photographers. With pleasant temperatures of around 10 degrees, the sun fought its way through the clouds again. So we enjoyed wonderfully relaxed hours and at times just sat quietly in the landscape to enjoy the background noise.


In the afternoon we went to the beach of Skansbukta for the last landing. Here we admired flowers and fossils, relaxed on the beach and even saw a blue fox, which added to the list of sighted animals. A few ice swimmers plunged into the ice-cold water again from the beach.


Back on board, at the last information meeting in the lounge, Elke gave a short summary of the trip and after dinner Chris presented a fabulous slide show with sensational pictures. There was a lot of laughter and one or the other almost shed a tear. What a journey!


1057 nautical miles, 10 polar bears, walruses, seals, reindeer, various birds - breeding, flying, diving, fighting - calving glaciers, glittering ice, plus dream weather, top photo equipment and last but not least a great team of guides, a great captain, an incredible one dedicated crew, and fantastic guests! At this point many thanks to everyone involved for an unforgettable trip!

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