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Greenland Sea

After several exciting days in the Svalbard Archipelago we now head towards Greenland on this, our first sea day on a magnificent Arctic voyage.  To put our recent adventures into perspective, our young nine-year-old explorer reporter, Charlotte Fisher, shares her own reflections and those of other guests she has interviewed today.  A relaxing day at sea was pleasantly interrupted after lunch by the appearance of a great blue whale in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic seas. Read More>

Jul 4, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Hamburgbukta and Ny Alesund

This morning the mother ship dropped the hook off Hamburgbukta along the northwest coast of Spitsbergen Island. A very small bay, barely visible from the sea, was entered via a narrow entrance to a natural harbor surrounded by a dramatic glaciated landscape. Setting off on our excursions of the morning we were impressed by the lush tundra and abundance of lichens as we made our way across the rolling rocky terrain of Albert I Land (named after Prince Albert of Monaco who contributed significant baseline information that is used today to compare climate and glaciers of a century ago). Read More>

Jul 3, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Pack Ice and Woodfjord

After a night cruising in the ice, we pushed forward with the ship into the heavy pack ice. Cruising in pack ice with an ice-enforced ship is an amazing experience. Since National Geographic Explorer is not an icebreaker, there is a limit to how much ice we can plow through. However, with our skilled captain, we were able to use the leads that sometimes open, and this gave us an opportunity to push forward deep into the pack ice. Today we travelled along Reinsdyrflya (Reindeer Flat), and as we travelled in leads, we discovered some walrus hauled out on the ice. Read More>

Jul 2, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Smeerenburg & the Pack Ice

We were awoken early this morning, no rest for the wicked! The National Geographic Explorer was heading through the narrow passage of Sorgattet, between the island of Danskoya and Spitsbergen, and then into Smeerenburgfjorden. The passage was narrow, but the wildlife was good, with puffins, thick-billed murres, Arctic terns, and even several walrus being spotted before breakfast.  As the butter melted on our toast, we anchored just off the island of Amsterdamoya and the once busy settlement of Smeerenberg, literally translated as ‘Blubber town.’ After breakfast we went ashore to explore, with hikes of various lengths being led around the shoreline, observing and documenting the historical remains of the old whaling settlement. Read More>

Jul 1, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Lilliehöökbreen, Stefan’s Garden, Krossfjorden

Our first full day in the Arctic is complete- not that yesterday really ended if you come from the perspective of the lower latitudes where the sun actually sets! I’m not sure about you but my day began at 3 a.m. with vibrant rays of sunlight bending towards my face through a double-paned porthole. Set in motion at that hour by the sun hanging a healthy 20 degrees in the sky, I ventured out on deck to be greeted by a great swath of Spitzbergen’s western coastline a few miles ahead. Outlined with jagged peaks belying its Norwegian name (spiky mountains) the atmosphere seemed to suggest calm, stable weather for our first day ashore. A slow approach to this western stretch of the Svalbard Archipelago bought us time to cover the logistics of an expedition to the high arctic: polar bear safety, Zodiac operations, the nuances of kayaking in cold waters, etc. Read More>

Jun 30, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Hornsund Fjord

We awoke this morning to an awesome surprise - there was a polar bear on the beach! Our ship, the National Geographic Explorer, had cruised to the eastern end of Hornsund Fjord in southern Spitzbergen, where a eagle-eyed naturalist spotted the bear from miles away. By the time we were all dressed and out on the deck, the ship had approached close enough to the lone bear for us to clearly see it walking on the black beach. We watched it as it walked, sat, and even laid down on the beach. The bear was close enough for us to see its eyes looking at us, the hair on its feet, and the scar on its leg.     Later in the morning, we anchored in the northeast end of Hornsund Fjord, with tall jagged peaks all around us. Read More>

Jun 28, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Freemansundet, Edgeøya

After searching for polar bears most of the day yesterday it was good to stretch our legs on the tundra of Barentsoya. We are still on the east side of Svalbard, and some of the Gulf Stream current helps create an upwelling by bringing up cold nutrient water to the surface that will feed the whole food chain. The fertilization by bird droppings further enriches the surroundings of Storfjord and the rich vegetation cover characteristic for this area was such a wonderful contrast to yesterday’s polar desert. We had great luck on the hike and were able to get close to a rock ptarmigan. Read More>

Jun 27, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Kapp Lee and Palanderbukta, Nordaustland

We awoke this morning at the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet at Kapp Fanshawe, on the west side of the Hinlopen Strait near Lomfjorden. The weather was a bit colder than we had experienced so far, so we donned our warm gear and headed outside before breakfast. As the ship travelled along the cliffs, we were able to observe hundreds of thousands of birds as they nested and rested, flew all around us, dove for food, took off from the water with wings flapping furiously, and landed in the water with legs splayed wide. Our main feathered friend at the cliffs was the Brunnich’s Guillemot, a black and white auk. These birds lay their eggs directly on the cliff ledges and can dive up to 300 feet into the ocean to find food. The sights and sounds of this extremely large nesting colony were an amazing way to start our day.  Next we headed to the Arctic Desert within the Palanderbukta fjord. Read More>

Jun 26, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

The Arctic Pack Ice & Austfonna Ice Cap VIDEO

The wake-up call normally happens around 0700 or 0730, but this morning was a little different! One of our fellow guests had ventured onto the bridge early, and with the 24-hour daylight had asked the bridge officer “Is that a polar bear swimming?”…and yes it was! So we were gently awoken from our slumber by Stephanie at 0430, and raced to get warm clothes on and cameras and binoculars and run up to the bridge and bow. There about 80m off the bow of the ship was a large polar bear swimming in the water! Wow! We watched it weave between the sea ice, paddling quite quickly through the cold water and peering up onto the flat ice in search for seals. But unfortunately for him there were none in the vicinity and he was soon disappearing into the thick pack ice. Having had a pretty good view of our first bear, the captain pulled the ship away from the bear and continued along our course through relatively open pack ice in search of slightly thicker ice.  It was decision time…back to bed, or stay up? Many decided to stay up, and this was the right decision, with another bear being sighted briefly swimming near to the ship, and then a third bear just around 0630. Read More>

Jun 25, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Habenichtbukta & Kapp Lee, Edgeøya

Today was our reindeer and walrus day! Both were on the verge to extinction in the Barents Sea region because of the overhunting but were protected in the very last moment and are today a good example how protection and wildlife management can be successful. In 1970 Norway set plans to make Svalbard to become one of the best-managed wildlife areas in the world. They created protected closed areas, nature reserves, and national parks. Today many of the species encountered in Svalbard, in the High Arctic, are found in good numbers and healthy populations, which was impossible only 20 - 25 years ago—a great story of success. Reindeer in Svalbard were heavily overhunted, and the very first decision made by Norway, as they gained full jurisdiction of the area in 1925, was to ban hunting of the reindeer. Read More>

Jun 24, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

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Please note: All Daily Expedition Reports (DER's) are posted Monday-Friday, during normal business hours.