August 5th, 2004 - 78°11.4' N 14°26.2' E - English Text

At last the mist is lifting and we can see the coast of Isfjord. At the end of the fjord is the town of Longyearbyen, the "terminus" of the second stage of the Imram 2004 voyage. We no longer need to stretch our eyelids to detect possible obstacles that don't show up on the radar screen. A pleasant force 3 wind is pushing us gently over the icy fjord water. The swell has calmed and we are all busy either reading, sleeping or discussing in the warm cockpit. The autopilot just needs the occasional directional change and the sails are well adjusted. Longyearbyen should soon be in sight...

The last few days have given us plenty of opportunities to contemplate an almost intact wilderness, starting with a landing on Björnöya (Bear Island), a wild island with a population of 5 (people) half way between North Cape and Spitzbergen. The search for a suitable spot to drop anchor is not easy but Peter, like a wily polar bear, manages to sniff out a protected little bay where the team attacks a hearty meal. Impressive for its wild cliffs dotted with bird colonies, this island has an "end of world" feeling about it. Part of the team disembarked to investigate the remains of mining activities, while the others kept watch aboard and recovered from their recent tiredness.

Long hours on watch spent peering into the mist and fighting the insidious damp coldness have rewarded us with some unforgettable moments: a whale that dives majestically just a short distance from Imram, a group of seals surprised at being disturbed during their interminable quest for food, and the fascinating sight of numerous species of birds (notably fulmars, kittiwakes and little auks) either diving or flying off as we approach. Force 4-5 winds alternate with non-existant wind, when we are forced to use the engine....

Björnöya - Bear island - (c) Norsk Polarinstitut

Yesterday morning we had our first view of Spitzbergen in the form of Hornsund, the most southerly fjord on the west coast. At first we could only imagine the fjord through a sea of mist while zigzagging among the ice floes and growlers the appeared one after another out of nowhere on the radar screen.

Dense ice (3-4/10) prevented us from reaching the head of Horsundfjord, but we still had a close view of beautiful ice sculptures drifting with currents and wind, as well as the highly crevassed snout of a glacier flowing into the sea.. Drifting ice made it difficult to return to the mouth of the fjord, and with thick mist Rob had to climb the mast to find the threads of clear water.

A visit to a Polish polar base, situated on the north bank of the fjord, made us appreciate warm Polish hospitality and a good bottle of Cognac.... Explanations of the various scientific projects, of life in this remote location and of the dangers of encounters with polar bears... Also the moment for us to load rifles and to practice the necessary security measures, just in case.... The last encouter with this ice lord was only a few days ago.

Chart n°7

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The Imram Voyage 2004 - Integral 12.50 - ACAPELA, juillet 2004


(c) pg/tho 06/04