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79°39’N Spitsbergen

79°39’N Spitsbergen

Japanese night in Hamburgbukta a tiny near-perfect horseshoe of a bay in the far north west of Spitsbergen.  Akiko, Kumiko and Hiro had brought the ingredients all the way from their homeland and David, the Japanese music to accompany the meal, from Manchester.  Talk ranged from the pleasure of visiting and skiing in Japan to the options for a memorable day in the mountains on skis the following day.

It was a great pleasure to be back sailing on Aleiga again, this time very ably skippered by the charming August.  We didn’t have the best of weather but we did enjoy the full Spitsbergen sail ski combo.  We got Aleiga up to 10 knots under sail and admired magnificent scenery from remote mountain tops accompanied by eider ducks, northern fulmars, little auks, artic terns, barnacle geese, guillemots and puffins.

We had heard of polar bear and whale sightings but we contented ourselves with walrus.  Their curiosity took them close on many occasions and we enjoyed inspecting their beach antics at Magdalena Fjord.  One can only wonder what they thought of the 200+ passengers of the cruise ship Austral who were ferried to see them in a fleet of buzzing Zodiacs the morning after.

Cruise tourism to Svalbard has increased by 140% since 2007 so it was unsurprising to see so many cruise ships this time.  The MSC Meraviglia brought 5700 passengers in one go when it visited in 2018!  There are also many more yachts and small vessels taking ski groups like ours so if there is a problem we are part of it.

Finishing on a positive note, from a point of near extinction when hunting was finally made illegal in 1952, walrus numbers are also up.  Approximately 4000 animals now call the archipelago home.

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