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Svalbard and Jan Mayen: Billefjorden

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Billefjorden > Svalbard and Jan Mayen > Europe

[Visited: May 2019]

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.

Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): View of Nordenskiöld glacier coming down the mountains

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.

Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Snow blown off the fast ice near Pyramiden, the north side of Billefjorden

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.

Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): View of Nordenskiöldglacier at the northern side of Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Polar bear on the fast ice with Nordenskiöldbreen in the background
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Looking out over the vast fast ice field at the north side of Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): The mountain near Pyramiden, at the north side of Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): The east side of Billefjorden with snowy mountains
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Nordenskiöldbreen, the glacier at the northern end of Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Nordenskiöld glacier seen from Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Expanse of fast ice at the northern part of Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Polar bear and cub on the sea ice near Nordenskiöld glacier
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Beluga whale coming to surface near the ice edge in Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Polar bear footprints in the snow on fast ice near Nordenskiöld glacier
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Mountain slopes with snow surrounding Billefjorden
Picture of Billefjorden (Svalbard and Jan Mayen): Mountains covered in snow in Billefjorden

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