A month or two after our expedition, each of the expeditioners on board will receive a log book of our written submissions and some photos.
I created a crossword using clues and words applicable to our time together.
We were asked to nominate a person for each of the 10 days. I wrote Day 4 and this is it.
At 3 am I saw a polar bear up really close. Then I woke up and realised I was dreaming.
Waking again at 7am to the voice of happy Henrik we were informed that those passengers wanting blue skies and calm seas, could stop dreaming.
The kayakers breakfasted early and set off first towards the bird cliffs lining the Hinlopen Strait, first stop the terminal face of a glacier. The crack of a gunshot was not the demise of a polar bear, rather a piece of glacial ice being released of its pressure and falling into the sea. As the kayakers moved off, the passengers following in Zodiacs were treated to a spectacular carving of the glacier. Compared to yesterday, this was a small glacier, but surrounded by cliffs, and no less inspiring, the ice pieces in the water providing pure refreshment for those who tasted this ancient ice.
If the glacier was the appetiser, the main course was divine. The soaring cliffs of Alkefjellet full of nesting guillemots, and occasional kittiwakes.
The cameras clicked madly, but it was the experience that was special. The photos will be a reminder, but it was the wonderment of travelling right underneath cliffs soaring hundreds of metres into the sky that made this place so special. Photos won't capture the sound of the squawking birds and their chicks, the soaring Glaucous Gulls looking intently for a chick to steal, or the sky around the cliffs thick with swarming birds. The water around the kayaks and Zodiacs was alive with bobbing birds. For the lucky ones, a treat from on high was dropped on them.
If Aurora made a movie they'd call it Zodiac Now, "I love the smell of guano in the morning!" And what a morning it was!
Massive seafront cliffs, their shapes inspiring on their own, were made even more memorable by the birds nesting in their thousands.
Looking upwards at the ledges full of nesting guillemots, my kayak buddy Nathan described it as, "A city of birds."
The kayakers poked through narrow gaps between rock pinnacles and the cliffs, secret hollows hid waterfalls only they could see. Zodiac passengers wielding zoom lenses captured close-up photos of nesting birds and the cliffs 'painted' by their presence.
Back on the boat after a morning that for many has been a highlight so far, another tasty meal appeared from the kitchen of Tina and Judd - Fettuccini Bolognaise. How good has the food been on this trip? Our galley duo have impressive Svalbard and Spitzbergen to compete against for our attention, and they are more than up to the challenge.
Afternoon activity time again, this time we were in the Lomfiorden, also on the north-east corner of Spitzbergen. So calm and peaceful that despite the desire to 'stretch the legs', some of the kayakers, myself included, thought that maybe this wasn't the kayak trip to decline. Nevertheless we did decline and joined the 'Zodiacers' onshore for an afternoon of walking. Some chose to stay close and helped clean up Svalbard by collecting washed up litter while 26 others joined Happy Hill Hiking Henrik on a hike up into the hills above Faksevagen Bay. Dear Don armed with his bear busting blunderbuss followed behind.
Smooth rocks on the beach became lichen-covered rocks as we headed up the hill. This in turn gave way to tundra, which in places became waterlogged and squishy. Squishundra?
It is incredible to think that for most of the year, this place is frozen. The array of flowers spotted left the hikers in awe that ANYTHING could grow in this environment, let alone the beautiful variety we saw.
For those not so botanically focussed, the fauna did not disappoint. Many Svalbard Reindeer provided photo opportunities aplenty. The highlight for all must surely have been watching a bird attacking a reindeer and seeing the reindeer flee, to a point. At this point, the reindeer turned on the diving skua and, raising onto its hind legs fought back with its front legs, before returning to grazing on the tundra and ignoring the continued harassment of the bird.
What a great hike! Sweeping panoramas, glacial valleys and everywhere, views to die for! How fantastic is this weather that not only was this place so special, we had the chance to enjoy it, not just survive it!
A quick zip back to the Polar Pioneer in the Zodiacs, helped by the efficient Aurora team both on and off the boat was the perfect end to a magic afternoon.
Dinner and drinks were the perfect end to a magic day.