+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

Kings Bay and 14th July Bay ~ Saturday, 22 July 2023
Early today Le Boreal came alongside the tiny quay at Ny Alesund (New York), so named as the early coal mining was begun by a New York businessman. It is situated in Kongsfjorden (Kings Fjord) and most English literature refers to it as Kings Bay.
A tiny settlement of less than 200, who all share communal facilities and canteen. Regularly visited by Polar Bears, one doesn’t walk around alone in the dark, and certainly don’t leave town sans rifle. Historically fascinating as this was the start-point for the famous dirigible flight over the North Pole in 1926 by Amundsen, Nobile and Ellsworth. Norge – one made the flight from Kings Bay to Teller, Alaska in 71 hours, a distance of 3287 miles/5260km. Priority was given to fuel (7000kg/15400lb) rather than life jackets. The 16-man crew landed in Teller with only 3 hours of fuel remaining! Mussolini wanted dirigible engineer and aviation expert Nobile to fly over the North Pole again, and claim lands in Arctic Ocean for Italy in 1928. This dirigible (airship) was called Italia, and crashed onto the ice north of Svalbard, after successfully flying over the Pole a second time.  A massive search and rescue effort resulted, during which Amundsen perished in a Latham seaplane aged 56. Nobile was found with many of his crew on the sea ice in a red tent. Despite a broken leg, Nobile was returned to Kings Bay first, creating criticism regarding his crew left in the ice. He was blamed for Amundsen’s death, so much so that in Tromso a walkway was constructed between the ship and the train, that his feet never touched Norwegian soil! The substantial steel mast to which both Norge and Italia were anchored remains at Ny-Alesund, along with a fine bust of Roald Amundsen.

The afternoon was enjoyed at Jortende Julibreen (14th July Bay, a French National celebratory Day), where guests were offered a walk to the wide, impressive glacier, and visiting a small cliff face sporting an abundance of Arctic plant-life. Nellie Nielsen calls the cliff face Hanging gardens, and was in her element explaining the plants that most require spectacles to enjoy. Above the cliff on towering peaks Black-footed Kittiwakes nest in profusion. Below them on the mountain side Reindeer grazed.
Indeed a breathtaking scene, and very exciting, full day on this A&K Expedition. At Recaps I spoke about Amundsen, and the relationship with Ellsworth who funded their expedition. Ellsworth was forwarded $85 000 by his father on the promise that he would stop smoking, and every member of the crew (16) would carry a parachute. Lincoln Ellsworth never stopped smoking, and the parachutes were excluded for reasons of weight – priority going to fuel and warm clothing! Hosted guests for dinner, and had scarcely a moment to complete the blog unfortunately.

Alkhornet and afternoon at sea ~ Sunday 23 July 2023
Adjacent to the very sheltered harbour of Trygghamna, lies Alkhornet at the entrance to Isfjorden. Longyearbyen lies 20 miles/32km off to the east of Alkhornt. Many remains of trapper’s hut indicate a verdant environment with plenty of fauna and flora.
High above on the cliffs nest thousands of Thick-billed Murres and Black-footed Kittiwakes, their sounds clearly audible to us hundreds of feet below. It was a rough scramble off the landing beach, where A&K staff assisted in getting guests onto the undulating tundra. In small groups, accompanied by guides and Polar Bear guards, Reindeer were watched at very close range. A photo competition sees many guests on hands and knees trying to capture a winning shot of these tiny plants.
Reluctantly we returned to Le Boreal. What a magnificent final outing on Svalbard, as we head to Longyearbyen to return rented rifles.

Over the fjord lies Barentsburg, an early Russian mining town. On the far point a few remote huts/homes. Recently a Polar Bear broke into one and drank all the wine.
Paleoclimate Lecturer, Dr Reed Scherer gave a lecture on climate change and polar amplification just before lunch. Photo Coach Andy Coleman gave a talk on taking better landscape photos. I was up next, speaking about the life and times of Roald Amundsen – first to overwinter in Antarctica, first through North-West Passage, first to South Pole, first to North Pole (by airship/dirigible), then to perish aged 56 searching for Italian Nobile whose dirigible Italia had crashed north of Svalbard in 1928.
Northern Illinois University (Huskies) invited me to a cocktail party for their 16 guests. I was invited to speak, so told a story of huskies and the annual dog sled race from Longyearbyen to Ny-Alesund and back (700km). Hoping fervently to speak in their community in March next year.
I co-hosted dinner with Hella Martens, Dutch Cetacean expert. It was a great evening with four Australian guests and two Americans. As usual, we were noisy, and finished last – the tables around us having retired early. I am doing likewise now.

Subscribe To OurBlog

Subscribe To OurBlog

Join our mailing list to receive the latest blog posts and updates from Rob Caskie.

You have Successfully Subscribed!