Our guide told us that the male bears have taken to staying on the sea ice so they can get at their natural food but the females have to go ashore to give birth in winter. Throughout the long winter they feed their cubs incredibly rich milk, while having no source of food themselves. This is normal, but now the sea ice is too far north for the mothers to reach it after coming out of their snow caves. They make their way as far north as they can, yet with the ice so far from land it is impossible for them to reach it, because their cubs still cannot swim far without freezing. Already female polar bears are having one cub to try to survive themselves - they scavenge, eating bird's eggs and what they can find, but what they need is to get to the sea ice where they can hunt their natural prey, seals.
The sailing ship we had spotted earlier at Kennviken saw two male polar bears on the ice and sent us the coordinates. Sadly, despite making all possible speed, we only found their footprints by the time we got there. Though we hunted all afternoon, they were not to be found. One doesn't realise the vastness of the Arctic and how scarce polar bears are becoming. It made us all very sad as we reflected on humanity's careless use of fossil fuels and the advance of climate change which is impacting so heavily on the environment of these specialised, unique creatures.
It was decided to tie up to a large ice floe overnight so we wouldn't have to slog back to land to anchor. We were at dinner, but noticed a crew member out on the ice floe with a peg and cable to make the boat fast. We began drifting away. Our trusty crew member was digging his feet and skating across the ice. Chips of ice flew as he was towed across the ice floe rapidly, towards the freezing water! Every photographer leapt up to grab their cameras. By the time we got out on deck, the crew member had let go of the rope to avoid a potentially fatal dunking in that gelid sea. We took photos as he was left far behind in this icy wilderness while the boat was laboriously turned around and came back.
We returned to dinner. That night our meal was a culinary triumph with blanquette de veau and profiteroles with two kinds of icecream filling plus cream! We all abandoned our abstemious eating and gorged!
That evening we enjoyed a very lovely sunset. When I went to the back of the boat to capture this image the chef was out there smoking and drinking in the ethereal beauty of the scene. I tried in my broken French to compliment him on the delicious meal. God knows what I really said!
Later we saw a far-off storm which was dwarfed by the immensity of this stunningly beautiful landscape.
In the evening we headed south to Leiberfiord which meant going out to sea. It was a WILD night! The boat was plunging wildly, smashing into the waves, grinding through ice floes. Things were falling off shelves and coming loose, stuff was shifting around on deck and crashing against the cabins up there.
I was glad I'd had a queasy premonition and got ready for bed early. I've had a stroke which destroyed the balance nerve from the middle ear to the brain. I've learnt to balance using my eyes, but could never have kept steady on my feet! The others were upstairs having Krakens, a delicious hot chocolate and spiced rum drink they'd invented. I heard later that it was a battle for them to get down to their cabins as the boat heaved up and down. I fell into bed with every sort of seasickness meds I had. I found it particularly hard to bear when the waves became choppy and we started going sideways in a corkscrewing motion. In our bow cabin the scrunching was so loud that sometimes I feared we had smashed into one of these!
I survived the threat of seasickness thanks to all the meds. I’m pretty sure some of the others had a bad night - next morning we were amongst the first four in to breakfast which was a record for us! In a stunning bay we visited a trapper's hut with spectacular views, named 'Texas Bar'.
See if you can spot their cabin so tiny at the foot of the mountain in this image.
We walked to the cairn at the end of the promontory. I was happy to return to the boat. More able-bodied fellow explorers like these two gave me a hand to get down the shaley slopes to the shore before they hiked off to the glacier.