Hornsund and the South National Park
Quite a special report coming up: We've sailed south to Hornsund and our morning landing is at Gashamna. A few of our guests join a long hike group. They leave the FRAM first via Polarcirckel transfer with the idea to be dropped at point A and picked up at point B, after a nice hike. Half the hiking group land and start up a hill. The second half of the group start to land. The first group spot a polar bear that is a little too close for comfort and watch it to find out where it is going. The polar bear decides to head for the hikers, so the expedition team instruct a retreat and everyone boards the small boats to reposition along the bay. The expedition team are well trained and ultimately decide to fire some flares to encourage the polar bear to change direction. The polar bear takes to the water but then decides to follow the hikers and despite a total of 12 warning flares, the polar bear doesn't take the hint. In the meantime, some of the other ship guests (including the remaining Furlongs crew) have been landed on a beach in another part of the bay. With a persistent (and possibly deaf?) polar bear, the expedition leader, Karin, decides to call a full evacuation. All the hikers are transferred back to the ship and everyone at the beach landing is called to evacuate, with the expedition team forming a protected barrier and leaving the beach last. Everyone agrees, the team did a great job. At no time did we feel in danger.
Back on board FRAM we're able to watch the polar bear as it strolls along a ridge and along the shoreline where we've been exploring. We all have a great view and watch the polar bear for about an hour. Eventually, it walks right around the bay and up a bank where three reindeer are grazing. They soon move off when the bear gets close. What a fabulous encounter!
To make up for the curtailed landing, the expedition team kindly seeks out a new location. It's a spot they're not used before and really underlines this is truly an expedition! We head for a large fjord where there is another spectacular glacier at the end. We're able to hike up a ridge overlooking the glacier and then down the other side. The 360 degree views are spectacular. Afterwards we're treated to a Polarcirkel cruise to the glacier wall and, again, we see some ice calving. A great landing sight.
On board FRAM, the hotel crew have been working hard and there's a tasty BBQ being served on deck 7. After dinner, the Furlongs crew enjoy a surprise get together with Karin and her expedition team. It's a bit like speed dating, we invite the expedition team to sit with a few of our guests, have a chat, and then move to the next group. We reward the expedition team with a fruit juice (as they are not permitted to drink alcohol while working) and of course many thanks. We reward our guests with wine, of course!