20-Mar-2004 -- On a very nice Saturday afternoon, I was setting out for a round-trip on the Kongsfjord. I did not specifically plan to go to the confluence, but I had it in the back of my mind. The problem would be to reach it, because normally it is a point on the water. This year, we have very good sea ice on the fjord, so, there was a chance to reach this point located on the "backside" of the Blomstrand island.
On my way, I first visited the edge of the Conwaybreen (the Conway Glacier), about 10 km away from the confluence. Here I first discovered fresh polar bear tracks. Maybe this is the point to give more general information about travelling on the sea ice in Svalbard:
For getting fast from one point to another on the ice, snowmobiles are a very versatile transport method. You can go as fast as 100 km/h and drive easily several dozens of kilometers. Speed is not only fun, it also is very important for your safety. On the day of my tour, the ice was not very hard on top. Instead, some water was between the rigid ice (about 50-60cm in thickness) and the freshly fallen snow cover. That means, that walking on the ice lead to sinking down to the ice layer - a bit difficult. If the snow cover is getting too thin, the scooter could also sink down to the ice layer, which nearly happened when I was leaving Conwaybreen. Fortunately I discovered this bad ice in good time, so I gave full throttle and just drove over it.
As additional means of safety, I took with me a rifle, a flare gun, a satellite phone and a VHF radio. Equipped with GPS, binoculars, and a camera I looked very expedition-like in my red scooter dress.
Back to the track: The polar bear track was ambiguous: I found two set of fresh tracks from the same bear, but heading in different directions. Which direction had the bear been going last?
Finally, I decided to head west towards the confluence. On my way, I saw the track several times more.
When I reached the point, I was a bit disappointed that I was not the first to be there on this day: A scooter track from another group was crossing my path at exactly the confluence point! And in checking the old tracks in my GPS, I found out that I had passed the point several times before, both by scooter and boat. After walking around a bit to get the proper GPS reading, I saw some people on their scooters some hundred meters away.
I was heading to them and asked if they saw the bear tracks. They did, and in fact, they also saw the bear! It was laying on the ice only about 500m away from the confluence. So I had to set out to get a photo from this magnificient animal - a great success.
So my first conscious confluence trip was very exciting: Beautiful glaciers with grey and blue ice and a polar bear - I guess not every confluence can offer all this!