08 Aug 2019

Kolyuchin Island - Birds, Bears, Walrus and Whales

Wrangel Island: Across the Top of the World

The sight, sound and smell were overwhelming. On the cliffs and in the air above us were thousands of Brunnich's, Common and Pigeon Guillemots, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Pelagic Cormorants and Glaucous Gulls. We were cruising in zodiacs along the coast of Kolyuchin Island, the rocky ledges of its towering cliffs providing apartments for this vast congregation of seabirds. This alone must be one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the Siberian Arctic, but there was more ...

Up a narrow slope we spotted first one, then two, then three polar bears looking out from a small cave, a female and two large cubs probably using the cave as a quiet place to lie up. Just around the corner, we found a heavy old male resting among the rocks at the base of the cliff. A little further on, another female with two cubs and then one more bear, all walking along the shoreline in front of us.

And Kolyuchin Island had even more surprises for us. At its far end several large, rocky beaches were crowded with hundreds of walrus all resting, wriggling and prodding each other with their tusks and vying for a space to relax among the masses.

The huge numbers of animals here suggest the waters surrounding the island are incredibly rich in food. We saw further evidence of this as Kapitan Klebnikov left Kolyuchin in her wake only to be surrounded by Gray Whales, diving to feed on the shallow seafloor. Among them, several Bowhead Whales added a rare treat to add to a thrilling day in the Russian Arctic.

Image from file (c) J.Cornish

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