It is clear sea, the boat is still in the Adventfjord and the only thing Kristin hears is a snorting sound. Afterwards it becomes completely quiet, almost uncomfortably quiet. Then 4-5 huge blue whales start playing around the boat.
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The early summer day began with a thick shroud in Longyearbyen. Guide in Hurtigruten Svalbard, Kristin Eriksson (25) put on an extra warm sweater and arranged coffee in a thermos before she went out to sea.
Half an hour later the fog clears. It is sunny and windless. The stage is perfect for seeing Svalbard’s unique bird and animal life up close, as you can only do from the sea.
From May to October you can experience Svalbard, life in the sea, by the ice, the magnificent silence on board the Hurtigruten Svalbard’s specially built catamaran.
MS Bard, a speedboat with two radiators and large panoramic windows, is a hybrid ship powered by diesel and electricity. When the electric motor is switched on, all motor noise is gone. The large panoramic windows give the feeling of being part of the sea itself.
One of the trips goes from Longyearbyen, via the old Soviet mining community Pyramiden to the Nordenskiöld glacier.
A deep insight
Tore Magne Hoem is a marine biologist, avid diver and director of experiences in Hurtigruten Svalbard. Being close to life in the sea and seeing how the ice has shaped the landscape on the seabed fascinates him. He will share this experience with the passengers on the MS Bard:
– The catamaran is equipped with a Blueye underwater drone that transmits the images directly to screens on board. It makes it possible to see what is under the boat, in the bodies of water and on the bottom where the ice has been painting for thousands of years and left clear traces.
Tore Magne Hoem Director of experiences in Hurtigruten
If the weather conditions allow it, the drone will be lowered into the sea on MS Bard’s voyage at the glacier edge. Maybe you can also be lucky enough to experience whale singing via the hydrophones that pick up the sounds in the water.
2 of 7Eveline Lunde
The whale’s whales
– Did you know that the white whale is called the “canary of the sea”? The small whales appear in large flocks, and communicate lively with each other. Researchers have also found that whales have their different dialects, depending on where they live. When you first spot a herd of these white animals, you may think it’s a large ice floe. But then you see that the “ice” is moving and that the sea is full of slippery and playful whales, Tore says.
The white whale, is about four meters long, but is still a small paw on a whale scale. The blue whale, which is the largest animal that has lived on our blue planet, is 30 meters long. The giant that was being exterminated is increasingly seen on Svalbard. In winter, the huge animals stay further south in the Atlantic Ocean, but in summer they go to the areas around Svalbard to get fat.
– Mostly there are blue whales in Isfjorden all summer, says Tore.
– Otherwise we see minke whales, fin whales and humpback whales in addition to the fun and numerous white whale. The bowhead whale, which has been hunted since the 17th century, has been protected in these waters since 1929. It is increasingly common for us to see this as well, he says.
From May it is midnight sun on Svalbard. Then comes the Arctic summer with bustling bird and animal life before the evenings get darker. In September – October, winter is approaching, and it gets dark enough for the northern lights to crackle across the sky in all its glory.
In the first weeks of May, while there is still ice in the fjord, it is possible to get close to seals, walruses and polar bears lying on the ice. Until August, there is a rich bird life on Svalbard. The puffins with their colorful beaks may be extra fun to look at, but the seahorse, the gull-like bird that can be up to 50 years old, is the creature that both Tore and Kristin emphasize.
– There is something very special when a seahorse meets your gaze, says Kristin.
– It just follows you and the boat all the time, it feels like it is so close that you can catch it with your hands. It is born in Svalbard. Then it flies out and lays on the air currents, living out at sea for five, six, seven years before returning to Svalbard to lay a single egg. “Who are you, where have you been, what have you done?” I want to ask it when we look each other in the eyes.
Let himself be enchanted
Kristin has always been hungry for travel and experiences. She set an early goal of working on all five continents during her life. The first job took her to Antarctica in 2016. Then it was Iceland and Greenland before she was enchanted by Svalbard, where she is now a guide in Hurtigruten and has just bought an apartment.
– It is said that if you have been on Svalbard for one week, you want to come back. If you have been here one to two weeks, it will definitely be a new trip. If you have been here for more than three weeks, you move here, she says.
Kristin loves all seasons and all kinds of weather at almost 80 degrees north:
– Up here you get friends of all ages, it does not matter if you are 15 or 65, the door is always open, and there is hot coffee to be had.