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  • Writer's pictureJim McNeill

Foundation I - Day Three

F1 Day Three Blog

Sailing and Wildlife

We awoke to a beautiful morning with the sun shining over the mountains to the east but pretty choppy, uncomfortable seas.

Our plan was to sail through the islands on the far northeast corner of Svalbard avoiding the increasingly bad sea state and hoping to encounter some wildlife on route. We were not disappointed and soon came across a group of about sixty walrus (apparently known as a herd, pod or huddle – latter being my favourite).

Our plan was to anchor in Smeerenbukta and having had our polar bear training the previous evening with Ian McCarthy (our Naturalist and cameraman) and I doing a double act, with our various experiences of encountering polar bears, go ashore properly for the first time to see the huddle.

(Sixten, Richard and a couple of others had gone ashore the previous evening to zero a new sight on one of the rifles).

Ian was going to take his big camera, tripod and long lens so that he could get some good footage. Once a BBC cameraman, always a BAFTA and EMMY award winning BBC cameraman.

We donned our life jackets, Captain Rasmus issued us with a rifle, a flare gun and radio communications. ProCrew put the rib into the sea and motored us ashore. I gave a brief familiarisation with firearms, just in case someone wasn't used to firearms and had to pick it up and use it in a dire emergency and then we set off along the beach towards the huddle of walrus.

Everyone was shocked at the amount of human detritus we found on the beach. Having such a negative impact on an otherwise pristine environment in such a remote area – just 600 miles from the North Pole - made us all feel quite ashamed of being human and we resolved, in future, to pick up whatever we could and take it back with us.

The birdlife as we approached the huddle was super with plover, guillemot, great skua, sandpiper and of course arctic tern, all evident. And an amazing (they always are) arctic fox made an appearance which was so close to Ian that he found difficulty focusing his 600mm lens.



Start: Transiting North Overnight

Finish: Smeerbukta 79.73º North 10.84º East

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