Reindeer

Yesterday we took zodiacs to Akelsundet where we saw 5 arctic foxes (in coat transition from winter white to summer brown), 20 reindeer and many seabirds. Akelsundet is the most lush of all the islands in Svalbard- due to the large numbers of nesting birds fertilizing the land (and therefore attracting the reindeer).

The reindeer were adorable! They have hollow hair shafts just like polar bears. It’s so interesting to learn more about how animals have adapted to live in the harsh tundra environment. I was concerned that we saw more reindeer carcasses than live reindeer….what is going on?

The arctic tundra is so different from any other habitat I have visit before. It was completely treeless and carpeted with a light moss. My boots sunk into the damp earth with each step. It was described as a “desert.” I hadn’t thought of it in this way before.

Beauty here is different. It’s tough. It’s scrappy. It’s the tiny Purple Saxifrage that manages to bloom just one inch off the ground. Botanist Nicholas Polunin considered this little survivor “among the world’s greatest beauties, especially as it stands out in its unusually bleak and desolate surroundings.”

Naturalist Carl Erik Kilander taught us how to respectfully track and observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

Naturalist Carl Erik Kilander taught us how to respectfully track and observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

Photo: Michael S. Nolan

Photo: Michael S. Nolan

Grosvenor fellows in the field! All bundled up.

Grosvenor fellows in the field! All bundled up.