The hunt starts

As I’m back in the field, I’ll interrupt the Antarctic Birds series for some actual field updates. Not from the far south, but from the north, as I’m guiding whale and aurora watching trips from Tromsø at the moment. Yes, it’s in the middle of the winter and I’m heading north. We won’t have an official sunrise for another two days, but it’s likely we won’t see the sun for another couple of days, as there are always mountains in the south. This means we only have a long ‘blue hour’, starting from 9 am and ending at 2.21 pm. When there are clear skies, this gives more as enough light to see things, but the first day we had a thick cloud cover and snow, so there was only very little light to work with.

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Moon over the mountains in early morning

Why go here, if there is this little light? Well, in January there are huge schools of herring in these waters, which attract not only fishermen, but also whales like Orca and Humpback Whale. And, of course, there is always the chance of seeing the northern lights when it’s dark.

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Rembrandt van Rijn at 3:30pm, my home for the next four weeks

So, off we went, wrapped ourselves in our warmest clothes, got our binoculars and headed on the deck of the Rembrandt to see what we can find. Visibility was poor, with little light and snow blocking our view. After a long morning outside, where we didn’t see any whales, we had a late lunch and then headed to Skorpa, a small abandoned island where we went for a walk in near darkness. Even though it was only 3:30 pm, we really needed headlamps to see where we had to walk, a really special experience. For the next day, the forecast is a bit better and hopefully, we can find some whales.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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