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Tuesday, June 16

Isbjorn's Walk Home

YE Diaries by Jamie Logie

We set off in the final Fire of the expedition, in a reflective mood, with the realisation that every step we now took was a step closer to home. Isbjørn (Ash, James, Adrian, Steve and our leader Richard) set out on the evening of the 9th, packs laden with 10 weeks worth of dirty kit, and moved 3km from camp to bivi out high on the cliff tops.

Clifftop bivvy Photo R. Payne

We spent the night under the sky, with the fulmars and puffins swooping above our heads, and an arctic fox yelping at us (clearly distressed at having a bunch of very smelly people living on his territory). The following morning, with our packs managing to have somehow doubled in size, we set off like a group of gypsy travellers down to the shore.

We walked along the beach, where the ground was firmer than the bog above, and made good speed, covering around 6 kilometres in an hour. We walked past Rein, who were slumbering peacefully after their 2am start, and sat watching a great skua feed on a dead puffin. That night we lit a bonfire to burn our rubbish, with Ash’s goal to burn every piece of wood on the beach. We failed to achieve this audacious goal, but did manage to fumigate Richard and his tent, and give our sleeping bags the strange scent of a wood fire. That night, the sight of an enormous walrus swimming by our camp sent us into a restful sleep.

For what we thought to be our final full day in the wilderness (we were, in fact, to arrive a day early having mixed up our dates), we set off along the coastal route beneath the cliffs of Forkastings as opposed to going via Carolinedalen. We were unsure if this route was passable or not (last years YEs had been turned back by an advancing tide), so with the threat of having to give up and retreat at any point looming over our heads, we raced onwards against the tide, Thankfully, our route proved fruitful, and we stormed round to Reveneset (within view of the airport) by midday.

The coast between here and Hiorthhamn (our boat pick up point) was littered with quaint huts, disused mining equipment and WWII gun placements. We felt especially at home amongst the machines of the ‘Campbell Gas Works. Halifax, England’.

James ‘at home’ on the Campbell gas engine. Photo R .Payne

We bivied out on the beach, under James’ defiantly flapping English flag, for what we thought to be the last time. Sadly we were to spend the day waiting in vain due to our timing issues. A visit from a group of Norwegian kayakers, who though we had claimed the area in the name of her majesty, kept us amused before we settled down for our actual last night.

The Fires united on Saturday morning as the boat pulled in to Hiorthhamn bay. So it was, with our heavy pack and light hearts, that we sped across the bay under the glorious arctic sun into civilization.

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