Polar bears
Rinie van Meurs, Oceanwide Expeditions

In Search of Polar Bears aboard the M/V Hondius

In Search of Polar Bears aboard the M/V Hondius

Jul 16, 2020|Holbrook in the FieldNatural History| by Holbrook Travel
By Christopher Bensley and Oceanwide Expeditions

I have always had a fascination with northern landscapes. In my travels, I have ventured to the Canadian Arctic’s Baffin Island, Iceland’s north shore, coastal Alaska, and Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. Here I am in the Arctic north, back in my early 30s.

Next on my bucket list is to see polar bears in the one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, Svalbard. Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It's known for its rugged, remote terrain of glaciers and frozen tundra sheltering polar bears, Svalbard reindeer, and Arctic foxes. The summer brings the “midnight sun”—sunlight 24 hours a day!

Photo by Markus Eichenberger - Oceanwide Expeditions

I had the opportunity last year to see the new Polar Class VI vessel, M/V Hondius, back from a voyage to Greenland. Here I am onboard, last September.

What follows is a preview of this journey to Svalbard aboard the M/V Hondius, provided by our friends at Oceanwide Expeditions.


Expedition: Around Spitsbergen, July 2019

Ship: m/v Hondius

Highlights: Arctic fox, polar bear, puffin, walrus, Svalbard reindeer, kittiwake, Sjuøyane

Story highlights: by Michelle and Ximena

Photo by Sara Jenner - Oceanwide Expeditions

Time to board the m/v Hondius, Oceanwide’s newly built ship!

Photo by Mike Louagie - Oceanwide Expeditions

After we boarded the ship, we were shown to our cabin. This would be our home for the next 10 days. The cabin looked and smelled so new, and was surprisingly luxurious. After a walk around the ship, it was time for the first briefing and after that: dinner.

Photo by Markus Eichenberger - Oceanwide Expeditions

After dinner we went to our cabin. We heard through the speakers that there was a whale in front of the ship. We rushed outside with a camera as quickly as possible. It was a blue whale! The biggest animal on earth, incredible to see! It was very exciting, because you never know when and where one will show up next.

Photo by Markus Eichenberger - Oceanwide Expeditions

The next morning we had our first landing by Zodiac.

Photo by Markus Eichenberger - Oceanwide Expeditions

On shore, we could choose between different hikes. Our hike brought us to some beautiful viewpoints!

Photo by Ximena and Michelle - Oceanwide Expeditions

The next day, we went for another hike. This hike brought us to a cliff full of puffins! We were really close to them; we had to be very quiet, but were able to make some beautiful shots!

Photo by Ximena and Michelle - Oceanwide Expeditions

After dinner, we saw a walrus lying on a piece of ice. 

Photo by Markus Eichenberger - Oceanwide Expeditions

One of the best moments of our trip was an amazing Zodiac cruise along the cliffs of Alkefjellet, where we saw approximately 60,000 Brünnich’s guillemots.

Photo by Ximena and Michelle - Oceanwide Expeditions

We went back on the ship. The captains had spotted two polar bears. It was a mom with cub! The cub was from January this year, and it was so small, lying on mom’s belly.

Photo by Ximena and Michelle - Oceanwide Expeditions

There is so much wildlife in the Arctic. We saw seven polar bears during our trip, even a swimming one!

Photo by Ximena and Michelle - Oceanwide Expeditions

And during almost every landing we saw Arctic foxes and reindeer.

Photo by Markus Eichenberger - Oceanwide Expeditions

This trip was the best we have ever made in our lives. We can write about this trip for hours, but we would recommend everyone to see it with their own eyes. It’s really a great and unforgettable experience!


To learn more about Holbrook’s Spitsbergen Expedition, visit our website: https://www.holbrooktravel.com/where-we-travel/polar-regions/arctic/arctic-north-spitsbergen-search-polar-bears-and-pack-ice

 

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