July 31, Alkefjellet, N79°34' W18°33'
As we continued south along the eastern edge of Svalbard, we visited Alkefjellet where soaring cliffs of up to a hundred meters are the temporary home of some 66,000 breeding pairs of Brünich's guillemots who build their nests in the cliff face, hatch and raise their chick (usually one per pair). In breeding season, thousands of the birds are flying around, and many more are on the cliff protecting their young. Also present are gulls and the occasional Arctic fox, looking for a tasty meal.
But when Leslie and I went down to the mud room to put on our boots, parkas and vests for the Zodiac excursion, our parkas had disappeared! Each cabin has a numbered cubby where these items were stored, and while our boots and vests were there, the parkas were not. The staff found spare parkas for us, but it took long enough that we had to go with a different team. When we returned, our parkas had been found. What had happened was that the day before, when we were doing the group video, one of the passengers had just grabbed two parkas from our cubby rather than their own, and had then put them back in the wrong place. I recalled hearing, the previous afternoon, a woman complaining that her parka was suddenly too big, but I didn't catch who it was. Leslie was relieved because her good gloves were in her parka pocket.
We later learned that Magne, who had gone out with the Red team, had been targeted by the birds and came back covered in bird shit. It may have been his yellow parka; despite the thousands of birds in the air, I didn't hear of anyone else being the recipient of such avian largesse.
In the afternoon we were supposed to stop at Ardneset, but the scouts spotted three polar bears, one eating from a whale carcass and the others seemingly sleeping off a full meal, so that was right out. We sailed for a bit longer and then took the Zodiacs out to see more walrus haulouts.