"We arrived into Kongsbreen so we could visit NY (pronounce new) London and NY Alesund; the home of the most northerly permanent human settlement. The weather was beautiful with blue skies and snow-capped mountains, but it was still cold with an icy breeze. From a historical point of view NY London is really exciting; with an old cabin and remains of a well-preserved marble quarry. An English man thought he had found the most amazing marble in the world here and spent a small fortune getting it shipped to England. However he found on arrival that it had all melted. You can also see various sea birds as well as get a chance to stretch your legs. The terrain was a mixture of sandy wetland and rocky pathways with small patches of snow. It was lovely to get out and have a wander around.
That evening the crew had decided to have a fancy dress party to celebrate the midnight sun. We were tasked to wear something white and the most inventive costume would win a prize. This was not very easy for me but the other passengers came up with various great ideas from a beluga whale to an Arctic turn. The turn was the overall winner. We all had fun watching the other people dressed up and parading around - they really do know how to keep you busy and entertained on this little ship.
For our final day we sailed to Alkhornet. We woke up to stunning warm sunshine; most people were up on deck to enjoy the warmth and see the lush green tundra come into view. This was in stark contrast to the white pack ice and stoney landscape from the previous day. Today was going to be a day for plants and hopefully Arctic fox.
As we boarded the Zodiac I was stuck by how green the landscape was. It was an amazingly sunny day with crystal clear seas and never-ending blue skies. The plan for this landing was to enjoy a short trek with our expedition leader, Frank. We had all put on our usual many layers of clothing before leave the ship and these were quickly being removed as we were all so hot!
We set off across the tundra and found two reindeer wandering along and nibbling the grass. Both of them were shedding their winter coats and small clumps of fluff could be seen floating on the breeze behind them. It is surprising how small the Arctic reindeer are in comparison to other reindeer! We stayed here for a while to watch them before heading off across the boggy terrain. The tundra is a strange flat landscape with huge mountains surrounding it. At first glance you could be excused for thinking that there was just grass that stretched ahead of us. But this is not the case; there are many varieties of mosses and flowers mixed in together. There are no large plants; just small well-trimmed plants that offer a great diversity of food for the reindeer.
The leader headed towards some large rocks and stopped. They had somehow managed to see a small fox cub asleep. How they saw this fluffy cub I shall never know but there it was sleeping peacefully on its own in the morning sun. We watched patiently, hoping for the little thing to move and after some time she did (we were later told it was a female cub about six months old). The excitement throughout the group could be heard in a sudden flutter of camera shutters as she wandered around trying to work out what we were. I never thought I would get so excited about a fox!
That afternoon was to be our last landing. We had stopped at Wahlenbergbreen Glacier to hopefully take a walk on it. However this glacier had moved since the last time the ship was here and the normal landing place was now not accessible. As always a scouting team left the vessel to check the area and it was decided we could go ahead but we could not walk on the glacier. The sun was still shining and again the water was perfectly clear and calm.
We boarded the Zodiac as normal and headed over to the shore. As we travelled there was a stunning and almighty crack (similar to thunder) and we all knew the glacier was calving. However, unlike our first glacier experience, this time it was going to be very different. A massive chunk of the glacier splintered off into the sea, about the size of two buildings. Our Zodiac driver had continued heading towards the beach with some speed. We gathered on the beach to watch as the ripple effect of the ice hit our boat. We retreated to the scree and rocks, away from the beach, as we watched a huge wave engulf our landing site.
For the rest of the time we were onshore the glacier kept breaking up, covering the clear water with icy slush and bergy bits. I knew that time was against us and no-one was surprised when the landing was cut short and we were asked to head back.
That night was our last dinner on board. We gathered as normal in the discovery lounge for our final re-cap and the captain's farewell cocktails. Little did we realise that there was to be a final musical goodbye from the hotel staff followed by a beautiful slideshow by Reuben, our photographer in residence. It was a very emotional evening as we all knew this once-in-a-lifetime experience was coming to an end. But what an amazing way to end with a good party surrounded by new friends.
Nothing could have ever really prepared me for this trip. Although the landscape is breathtaking and the wildlife is magical, it is the crew and staff on the M/S Expedition that I believe really made my whole trip for me. The staff are so friendly and the expedition team are very knowledgeable, but the most important thing is the genuine enthusiasm for the destination; whether it be staff or the crew or the expedition leaders. This is not something that can easily be faked.
I will never forget my first Polar experience."
By Hanna Holmes
Hanna travelled on Realm of the Polar Bear (ACS)