After several days of exploration by ship and sightings of wildlife, we are excited to get off our beloved ship and stretch our legs. Icicles hang from the rocky slopes when we approach the small beach near Camp Millar, and after an easy wet landing we step ashore the wilderness of western Spitsbergen. One of the guides first goes ahead, to make sure there is no polar bear lurking behind an outcrop, before we are allowed to proceed. We leave some of our clothes above the beach, as the weather is surprisingly warm. A little higher up, one of our knowledgeable guides gives us a brief history of this location. Named after British businessman Millar who conned people into buying estates that were not as profitable as he wanted the buyers to believe, Camp Millar was thought to be close to a gold mine which never materialised.
In fact, we walk past the remains of a train that once ran here to transport the valuable material to the shore, to be shipped abroad. Nature has reclaimed the area now. We have to thread carefully as the ground is covered by slippery ice. Soon enough, we spot the first Svalbard reindeer, the smallest kind of reindeer around. The animals are frantically looking for food between snow and rocks, and the best they can find in this time of the year, at the end of winter, is tiny mosses. They are constantly on the move. We head up to the rocky mountain to the north, always careful with the icy terrain we are walking on. Above us, we hear and see swarms of birds flying towards the mountain which is a breeding ground for many, for instance dovekies. Well out of reach for us, so we stop frequently to admire their flight through the blue sky.
When we turn around, the rocky coastline below us glisters with ice, and on the other side of Bellsund we can see snow-capped mountains rising out of the blue see. When we walk back, we get closer to the reindeer that are surprisingly tame. Most are without antlers, and those who still have them are clearly losing them. Several only have one antler left. We find several antlers on the ground, as well as chunks of reindeer that have perished in the harsh winter time. We see an arctic fox, and come to one of the wooden cabins which we find closed. It is great to be walking, and we gladly take the opportunity to move, looking around and taking in the majestic landscape of the surrounding mountains and fjords. After a few hours, we get back to the zodiac, get the clothes from the beach, and return to our mothership.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Camp Millar (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 Camp Millar. Read more about this site.