Friday, 21 July 2006

Brunnich Guillemots on Svalbard

The Brunnich Guillemot is a member of the auk-family. It is similar to the Common Guillemot ut have a more northern distribution than the common. It´s a little smaller, has a blue/gray line on the upper mandible and do not have the white ring around the eye that some of the commons get. It is nesting in cliffs on Svalbard and one of the largest colonies is situated in the Hinlopen Strait on East Spitsbergen. Last week we had the conditions to do the first Zodiac-cruise (small boat cruise) in front of this cliff and it resulted in these pictures. Many think about penguins when they see the guillemot. They are not related but are subject to something called convergent evolution, meaning that they adapt to similar environmental challenges. One example is that they are white on the chest and black on the back - this means that they are camuflaced in water from preditors both from above and below (white against a light sky and black against the dark abyss). The guillemots also have very short wings that they use for propelling in water. They have a large chest bone that support big muscels, but they are rather inefficient flyers.

Friday, 14 July 2006

Polar Bears in Svalbard

On request from one of my readers I´m posting some pictures of some of the polar bears we have seen so far this season. It is very little sea ice this season and it seems that the bears are congregating where there still is a sufficient "hunting platform" for them. We have seen a lot females with two cubs this season - mabye they are the ones who didn´t make it when trying to follow a fast retreating ice edge this year. Last week we observed 39 polar bears - this is a new record for Polar Star.