It is a clear day when we start our exploration of Spitsbergen from its capital, Longyearbyen. As we sail out the small Adventfjorden, we are on deck to soak in the landscapes which, for now, are still new. It is early May, a few degrees below freezing, and the slopes of the mountains around us are all covered in impeccably white snow. When we leave Adventfjorden, we arrive in much bigger Isfjorden, the main fjord cutting into the western part of Spitsbergen. We sail eastwards, and the vistas of the broad fjord hemmed into the white, pointy mountains on all sides makes me stay on the outer deck for the rest of the day. When we enter Billefjorden (named after 17th century Dutch whaler Cornelius Bille), the water becomes notably narrower. We now sail betwee Dicksonland on the left (west) and Bunsowland on the right (east). We have a closer look at the mountain slopes and their fascinating geological features before we arrive at the end of Billefjorden.
While I am still trying to find the abandoned Russian settlement of Pyramiden under the pyramid-shaped mountain on the west side, the guides get excited, and point towards the fast ice on the north: they have spotted our first polar bears! It is time for long lenses, and when we zoom in, we sure enough see the buttery-coloured furry beasts: a mother and her cub. The ship moves closer, and the captain parks it against the ice edge. However, the bears decide to move on, and we now take in the spectacular scenery of Nordenskiöld glacier meandering down the mountains, the ice edge with traces of various animals, before we slowly move towards the west. There, we spot a big pod of beluga whales, which are surfacing regularly near the ice, with sprays above their white bodies. We end up staying overnight at the ice.
The next morning, we see the polar bears again, walking up and down the fast ice. It is exciting to watch them move along, wait for each other, disappear between chunks of ice, and reappear again. Still, they have no intention to come closer, so we sail back to Pyramiden again. Close to the ice edge, we again see beluga whales, and we now also get a better look at the settlement of Pyramiden, a former mining town which was suddenly abandoned in 1998. I have plans to visit, which depends on the conditions of the ice: snowmobiling is not possible anymore, but docking is neither. I would be hoping to visit Pyramiden for another ten days, after which it became clear that visiting was out of the question. It will have to wait for another visit in another season. We now say goodbye to tBillefjorden, sailing towards the southwest, towards new adventures in our expedition around the wild lands of Svalbard.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Billefjorden. Read more about this site.