Kayaking in the fog, amongst huge mammals

Published 21.07 in category In the Footsteps of Nansen

Today is 20 July, Day 81. Our new position is N79˚56’, E51˚28’ – and this means we’ve been on the move today. There’s been heavy fog and poor visibility, but the key factor in our choice was calm seas. When you’re kayaking, the fog is less of a problem than rough seas. We just paddled along the front edge of the glaciers, so navigation was never a problem.

As we made our way, keeping eye contact with the shore, we spotted a polar bear who was out for a swim. He really seemed to be enjoying himself, calmly swimming along, but he came to have a look as soon as he spotted us. It didn’t take him long before he was satisfied and swam away. This is the first time we’ve seen a polar bear at sea while kayaking.

A little later we met a very curious walrus. It just had to swim over and have a look at this strange contraption that was moving on top of the water. It came all the way over, stretched his neck and almost seemed to climb into our kayaks. It stared and stared with those mysterious red eyes that no doubt had never seen a human being before. Satisfied, it too retreated.

We have yet to have any problematic encounter with walrus on this expedition – they just seem to be really curious.

Now we’re camped at Cape Barents – a magnificent place! This is the southeasternmost cape of Norbrook Island. Along the shore are smooth round rocks, and there is a small beach with lots of driftwood. Some of the larges rocks are coloured with patches of dark brown lichen, and behind us there is a well-populated birdrock with plenty of life and music. We’ve also found baleen plates that probably derive from the rare Greenland whales that are sometimes seen in the waters of Franz Joseph Land. They use the baleens to filter out the plankton, krill and other tiny prey they eat.

Even though it’s foggy, it’s good weather. Nevertheless we may well choose to stay here for a day or so. Our ride home isn’t coming until the 10th of August anyways – the boat that is picking us up is delayed. That’s 20 days of waiting and lots of time. We’ll see what the weather and all is like after we have had some sleep.

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