Tuesday 19th June
Never quite sure which day is which with the sun holding the same amplitude all day long, just moving around the sky like a clock.
Around 1:15am we had a call over the PA to let us know there was a bear around the ship. A quick rush to get out of bed, dressed in warm thermals – but not wind or rain proof as there was still a lovely clear sky and bright sunshine. I walked out the quickest route which for me is the aft deck where the zodiacs are stored and saw a bear within a few metres, perhaps 5 metres, of the vessel. Plenty of activity was happening with cameras going off rapidly. I fired up the Sony Action Cam and started filming. The bear came to the side of the boat, and stood up, intent on following the scent of the food coming from the galley.
Some awesome video footage and photos were taken as this wild animal investigated all around the ship, looking into portholes and generally being inquisitive. It would go away 50 metres, only to return for another look. Eventually it went a little further, laid down in a little spot on the ice it had smoothed out and tried to rest. During his visit to us, he yawned several times – we were that boring to him.
Our noises and smells became too much and he walked a bit further away to find a new spot. It was interesting to see how he would jump up a little with his front paws and try to test the ice before moving onto ice close to the edge of the water, or also to test an area before lying down. He’d use the same technique to try to break through and make a seal hole. Hoping for a seal to poke it’s head up for air and for it to become dinner. No such luck for him today.
Our chef suggested a celebratory drink of whisky so we all gathered on the fore deck and recanted what had happened. Morten and the crew all said that was a VERY unusual occurrence, and for it to be combined with bright sunshine and no wind made for a wonderful experience for everyone.
I loaded my Sony Action Cam footage onto the laptop and showed it to the crew, then found a way to have it presented on the very large TV – a left over from the ships life as a survey vessel.
Around 4:30am I guess, I headed to bed and the weather was closing in. We’d seen our bear see another and chase them across the ice until they met, eyed each off, then had a playful tumble and walked along together.
Two subsequent calls were made over the next couple of hours and I stayed under my warm doona both times. The first call was for a bear who walked past some distance away, then for the first friendly bear to return – with extra determination after his nap.
Robin had a go pro on a selfie stick and got wonderful footage of the bear at the side of the boat, and even taking a sniff of the camera itself. Amazing stuff.
Later we woke again for breakfast, with none of us quite believing what we had seen just a few hours before.
We left this ice parking spot – by explanation, the boat is pushed as far into the ice as possible so that the ice holds the ship in position and the main motor can be shut down. This is nicer than using the anchor as we are held sold and there is no rocking around.
Around 9:00am we backed out and headed south, needing to navigate a narrow channel at slack tide. The Kinfish has been through here before, so the captain has confidence about the depth if he follows that route. The other issue is the one metre tidal difference between the two ends of the channel, hence the need to go through at slack tide. Our normal speed of around 7 or 8 knots was double as we zoomed through the gaps, weaving between the fast moving icebergs that were also moving with the tides, some eddy currents and whirlpools it was an interesting ride. That we are allowed, and encouraged to be up on the bridge at this time is wonderful and another part of the benefits of this tour.
After lunch we have found sea ice packed into a glacier and are attempting to park it up, but the ice is ‘rotten’, quite thin and breaks up easily, not holding the ship as expected.
It is gloomy outside. Raining. Cold at 1°C and no one is looking forward to the potential for a zodiac outing. On the other hand if it fines up, we may have a trip before and after dinner.
It didn’t fine up at all and in fact got worse. Nevertheless, Morten and Nozomi offered a Zodiac ride for anyone that wanted it and one passenger said yes. So the engine was started and we motored towards the straight to anchor and then release the zodiac. Several of us waited around to ensure they returned safely, which they did, quite chilled, but happy from their expedition.
What a 24 hours; what a week!