National Geographic Endurance
Wow! What an amazing day, and so unexpected after our exciting but chilly days in Svalbard. Suddenly we found ourselves in almost tropical northern Norway, with brilliant sunshine and temperatures soaring into the mid-20s °C. In the early morning, we sailed into the lovely little fiord in the northeastern part of Sørøya Island. We were treated to wonderful, clear views of a surprisingly green island. There were trees (albeit small ones)! There were grasses, lush ground cover vegetation, and even sheep! Sørøya is Norway's fourth largest island, and this northern gem is considered one of Norway’s most beautiful. We made our morning landing in beautiful Mefjord to allow walking groups to disembark and go ashore. Zodiac cruisers explored the coastline and searched for eagles, seabirds, and coastal rock formations. The walkers toiled up a steep slope along a rough farm track on this rocky and mountainous island. They were then able to enjoy the expansive, lush tundra landscape with tiny pools and even patches of low birch and willow “forest” here and there in sheltered ground. The path passed through delightful swaths of wildflowers: sun-tracking mountain avens, bright cranesbills, insectivorous butterworts, low-growing crowberries, and even junipers, among others. The trail wound through and over low hills, passed a large tarn with a cabin beside it, and eventually led down to a sandy cove. We’d flushed an arctic hare and even willow ptarmigans on the way to the cove, and we heard the singing of several territorial bird species, including bluethroats, bramblings, and redwings. The biggest surprise of all was at the water’s edge. There, we observed a small herd of reindeer and their calves drinking saltwater! This unusual behaviour of the arctic species allows individuals to obtain the salts they need which are not available from their diet — especially on a surprisingly hot summer day. Meanwhile, our Zodiac cruisers enjoyed spectacular, rugged coastal scenery and sightings of many seabirds along with the enormous white-tailed sea eagle — the most dramatic bird of the region, equivalent in size to the bald eagle of North America. As we sailed away from our morning’s landing site in Mefjord, bound for Tromsø, we glimpsed harbour porpoises and minke whales, adding further excitement to a wonderful day. Our day ultimately ended with our trip slideshow and video and Captain Aaron Wood's Farewell Cocktail Party. Our final day was a fitting finale for a marvellous voyage in Arctic Norway.