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Polar expedition with Marine 450U (part 4)

 Czech and Polish expedition in Norway

Marine 450 U in Spitsbergen

And wildlife around…

16th glaciospeleologic expedition

Part 4

In July 2019 a crew of four speleologists left for the sixteenth expedition to explore the inside of the icebergs at the Spitsbergen archipelago. This text is mostly about the environment and wildlife of Spitsbergen where there is our boat – Marine 450 U – currently being used in freezing water full of icebergs.

The crew along with our aluminium boat are accommodated in a hunting cabin Hyttevika which you can take a look at in previous parts. Futher text is from the leader of the expedition – Bc. Josef Řehák’s point of view.

Around the cabin but also during our travels there is plethora of reinideers accompanying us. They are curious and trustful creatures with big brown eyes. Sometimes they themselves come look to within 3 – 5 metres, what it is we are actually doing. Little reindeers are cute because of their clumsiness and shaggy fur. They are very tame because of their lack of experience with humans. Reindeers often graze right next to the cabin so you get waken up by distinct puffing and grass nibbling as they feed just a few centimetres from your head. There are only only two layers of wood and a duct tape between you and them.

It is sadly very similar with polar bears. If it is behind a wall, you can clearly her it puffing and breathing in all kinds of scents which come out of the big angular can called Hyttevika. Even today there are several holes from gun shots in the walls and doors when a bear came into the hunter Rubach’s Halley and he was shooting at him from his bed. However, I have to say that except for one case, the local bears are very kind and affable to us. They sometimes eat something but thanks to our metal barrels, in which we keep most of our equipment and food, are our losses minimal. Even though they are kept outside.

And the one case. It was once at a secondary terrain station Baranowskiego called Werenhus. The bear fell through the roof inside the building and rearranged the interior a little. But it liked the buttery the most where it was gradually stealing the cans and with help of its teeth sucked out and swallowed the content with finesse. It then spit the less tasty metal out. It would have sat there for quite a while if it had not been for a family pack of Tix – a Czech washing powder. Almost all of it got eaten but it did not do good to its intestines as it was later shown. At the end it got attracted by an enormous red can hung on the wall. If it came in through the door, it could have learned at the fire directive that it was a powder fire extinguisher but because it came through the ceiling it was curious what would be in such a big can. I cannot imagine its amazement when it sank its teeth into the metal. Anyway the powder was all over the place and the unhappy bear left through the rear wall – so it missed the fire directive once again.

Polar foxes are an inexhaustible source of fun but also alertness. There are plenty of them around including some fully black males. Right next to the cabin there is a female with cubs which constantly play around as they are unbelievably curious. They are always around exploring all the new things including what is edible. If you leave something edible outsider, they steal it in a second and vanish into the tundra. And they can eat almost anything – leather belts and shoes are their favourite. Yesterday I was watching them in front of the cabin, one came and started biting on my shoes. It did not mind that I was wearing them. I had to remind it that you do not do that. But otherwise they are adorable.

Among other inhabitatnts you cannot pass over the amount of birds all around us. We have a polar day so the rumbling and roaring are unceasing. There are flocks of Razorbills here. Behind the cabin there is a full hillside of them and they make their nests underground similarly to not so plentiful Atlantic puffins, so they feel somewhat close to us. We also go underground all the time. However, they can dive for food up to 300 metres deep, which we thankfully do not have to do thanks to our bear-proof barrels.

Among other plentiful birds we have for example probably the only bird of prey at Spitsbergen (if we do not count the Snowy owl) – the Glaucous gull. It is a remarkable bird bird with a wingspan of up to 180 centimetres. If you intrude into its territory, it can more than enough warn you that you are not welcome. If you come close to its nest, a strike from its beak is felt hard.

Now I have to apologize for digressing away from the topic but another Marine boat appeared in the bay. It was an older type – Marine 15Y and if we are lucky, with its help we can send these lines and pictures to civilization – to you. So to be continued..

Best regards,

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