It’s midnight … on the dot — at least passenger-time-wise. Yes, I should be fast asleep, but every time I close my eyes, they pop open almost immediately. Simply too much excitement.
The occasional banging of the ice against the hull isn’t helping matters. Not because of the noise. No sirree … rather, because it reminds me of the icescape that is mere steps away … just outside the cabin.
I tell myself the ice will be there tomorrow … and the next day. And it will be thicker, with fewer leads. Not that 50 Let Pobedy is seeking out those strips and ponds to ease its way north. It doesn’t matter what form the water has taken … solid or liquid — the ship’s just cutting through whatever happens to be in its way.
Orcas weren’t amongst the wildlife sightings we enjoyed today. They can be seen in the waters around FJL … but it’s rare. No matter; 50 Let Pobedy has an orca of its own; and we get to see it every day!
I wrote about our day in general in the previous post. You know about the lectures and briefings, and what we did and ate. You even got a hint of the icescape … which got better and better as our day progressed. Now, only 48-latitudinal-minutes — or about 48 NM (55 miles/89 km) — from the edge of the northern limit of Franz Josef Land, it’s time to write about our time on the outer decks.
For those interested in latitudes and how nautical miles fit into the scheme of things … I found a great layperson description here that I actually understood ;-) Also, to limit the words in this post, I’ve included a link in the above paragraph that has all the information readers could ever want about FJL.
The dotted line is our approximate route through FJL after leaving Cape Flora this afternoon.
[Base map from Wikimedia — image attribution at this link.]
So, where to start. Oh yes; the teaser photo of the zodiacs … the one I said starts the wildlife story of our day. If you don’t know what I am referring to, just go to the previous post and scroll to the end.
The other leading player in the story is this character …
… A walrus, which I nicknamed broken-tusk Odobenny.
[for Odobenus rosmarus … as this guy is known in the animal kingdom.]
When we stopped at Cape Flora to drop off Dr Maria and her team, the zodiacs were lowered. The intent was to ferry the scientists ashore with these boats. Long story short, there was too much ice to deploy them on the mission. While the boats were in the water, the call went out for a walrus at about the 10 o’clock position. Yay! Our first mega-fauna sighting. The walrus came close enough to the ship for us to make out that one of its two tusks was broken (hence the nickname). After giving us the once over, it then swam over to the zodiacs … and promptly fell in love with Colin’s little rubber boat!
Odobenny shows a special interest in Colin’s zodiac
and approaches to get to know it better!
Now, bear in mind that an adult walrus can weigh anywhere from 1,800 to 3,700 pounds (800-1700 kg). And the tusks are long, heavy, and sharp. Could it have punctured the zodiac? Colin didn’t want to find out. After revving the outboard engine a couple of times in an effort to rebuff the unwanted attention of the walrus, he decided the better part of valor in this instance was a graceful retreat.
Colin beats a retreat after the Walrus shows a little too much interest in the zodiac.
Odobenny returns to bid us do svidaniya before diving and heading to parts unknown.
In the meantime, having completed its mission, the helicopter was back and it was time to leave Cape Flora behind and continue north through a land that is comprised of 85% ice. My kind of place … in the summer; I’m not sure I’d want to live through a winter here.
Farewell Cape Flora!
We stayed on deck as the ship followed the shoreline of Northbrook Island, keeping an eye on the birds flying about. There wasn’t much variety — just some glaucous gulls, black-legged kittiwakes; Brünnich’s and black guillemots. I didn’t have my fast lens with me — too heavy to stroll about with. So, I simply enjoyed the birds with my eyes … but when they were near enough, I did deploy my SX50 for a couple of shots even though it isn’t quite suitable for birds in flight.
A Brünnich’s guillemot scurries out of the way of the big red ship and takes to the air.
A great shot from a fellow-passenger; you can see the signature
white line on the side of the mandible of these Brünnich’s guillemots.
For the next little while, we simply enjoyed the icy landscape that we were traversing. Moving through broken-up sea ice, 50 Let Pobedy was mostly nudging pieces of the frozen stuff out of its way. Easy-peasy.
Enchanted by the color of the water, I focus on some detail shots.
We were just settling in for Dr Sam’s photography lecture when the call went out for walrus on the ice! A pro in polar voyages, Dr Sam knew better than to try and compete with a wildlife sighting and quickly dismissed class. As we all rushed to our cabins for our parkas and cameras, Captain Davydyants began the process of gently maneuvering 50 Let Pobedy towards the slab of ice where the walrus were lying about a less-than-pristine haul-out. Slow and easy we went so as not to scare off the herd … amazing what you can get a giant, hulking ship to do when you know which buttons to push ;-)
You know what’s coming next, don’t you? A series of photos from this encounter … but not nearly as many as I actually took. I’ll keep the words to a minimum as I am sure after seeing so many walrus — near and far — Conrad will do a presentation on these amazing creatures in the days ahead, and I will have plenty of words to share then.
Just because we moved on from the walrus, it doesn’t mean the entertainment ended. The scenery was just so spectacular that we really didn’t need anything else to add to our pleasure in the early evening hours.
At one point, I kneeled down at the bow chock — at least that’s what I think the ‘window’ in the ship’s bow is called. The hard deck wasn’t easy on my knees, but the different perspective of the icescape from this vantage point was worth a little pain ;-)
Can you see the bird footprints on the ice?
I wish I could describe just how smoothly the ship was moving through the ice. Sure this ice was thin. Sure it was broken up. But it was still ice … a solid mass in many places. But the ship went through it like it was nothing but water. OHHH … but wait a minute — I actually remembered to take some video … so you don’t have to take my word for it after all; you can see for yourself what I mean.
Remember, ‘thin’ though the ice is, the ship is going right over it … you would think there
would be some bumps along the way … nope just a little vibration from the engines.
Darn! I really planned to finish writing about today in just two posts. But it’s just not going to happen. There’s still a lot to share. So, I will stop here. But not before teasing you just a tiny bit with what might be in the next post …
Ohhh! Lookeee here … more footprints on the ice. They’re too big for a bird …
… could they be human? Or are they from something else?
Now … this is an easy tease, so you know what you have to look forward to!