Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

Iceland Recon: Caving & Glacier Hiking

Alizé Carrère and Dagny Ivarsdottir are currently in Iceland on reconnaissance for a new 3-day extension into the country’s interior that will begin operating in 2018. Follow along to see behind-the-scenes of expedition planning over the next few days. 

By Alizé Carrère

Iceland, land of fire and ice. While this country has seen a recent surge in tourism, there are still many places where you can travel off the beaten path and experience the interior of the country as its residents do. One of those places is Husafell, where we will be taking guests in 2018 for a new post-voyage extension involving heli-hiking, lava caves, and ice tunnels. Sound adventurous? It most certainly is, and I’ll be here for the next week scoping out all of the details with Iceland guide and Lindblad Naturalist Dagny Ivarsdottir.

Hotel Husafell

Husafell, located two hours northeast of Reykjavik, has long been known as a favorite summer camping spot for Icelanders—and for good reason. It is right on the edge of the highlands, tucked alongside glaciers, lush green valleys, and dotted with hot springs. In summer 2018, we are a planning a 3-day/2-night adventure in the region, with our base camp at the newly finished Hotel Husafell. Hotel Husafell is the first 4-star countryside hotel built specifically for the intrepid traveler who also happens to enjoy a glass of fine wine by a cozy fireplace, or a dinner of fresh lamb while overlooking snow-capped peaks.

Víðgelmir Cave

Today was the first day of our recon, and we visited two places that will surely become a part of this program. Our first stop was to Iceland’s largest lava tube (by volume), just 20 minutes from the hotel. After putting on our hard hats, we were guided into the depths of the tunnel, and learned about the fascinating geologic phenomena that allowed for such an incredible structure to form. Walking along the cave floor where hot lava and gases once flowed, we marveled at the ice stalagmites, ribbed tunnel ceiling, and columnar basalt. After a quick picnic lunch, we made our way to the bottom of nearby Langjokull glacier, Iceland’s (and Europe’s) second largest glacier. Our destination was 25 meters down inside the glacier, by way of a man-made ice tunnel. Constructed by a team of geologists and glaciologists, this was a true adventure that can now be enjoyed by curious travelers. It began with a 30-minute ride over the glacier in a large ice-jeep to reach the opening of the tunnel. Once there, we strapped our crampons over our boots and followed our guide through LED-lighted tunnels carved deep into the interior. Over the next hour we saw features of glaciers one is not accustomed to seeing by simply walking on top: chasms, the deep “blue ice,” and glacier strata rings that reveal the country’s long history of volcanic eruptions.

Ice tunnel trek

To cap off the day, Dagny and I made our way back to Hotel Husafell for a pre-dinner dip in the property’s geothermal pools—as the Icelanders do.

Hotel Geothermal Pools

Sven-Olof Lindblad: My thoughts on the Paris Climate Accord

June 3, 2017
Dear Traveler,

This week, I believe, has been a very sad one as the United States declared our exit from the Paris Climate Accord.

Many of you know and have seen firsthand the effects globally of climate change. I certainly have over 40 years of travel: from Inuits in the Arctic, whose winter hunts are becoming fewer and more dangerous because of thinning sea ice; farmers in Ecuador’s highlands, where crops are wiped out with increasing heavy rainfall; Pacific islanders whose low atolls have become increasingly more flooded by stronger storms and rising sea levels; to witnessing massive destabilization of Antarctic ice shelves.

These, and countless other events around the world are not theory—they are fact. Science is not red or blue, it is rooted in fact. Many argue, and I am in agreement, that climate change is the greatest threat mankind faces.

And now we stand with Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world who are not part of the Paris Climate Accord.

How can this possibly be? How could we, the United States of America, isolate ourselves from what clearly is a global call for essential change? And what should we do about this?

I firmly believe that travelers represent some of the most powerful voices—people who venture out into the world, see things firsthand—the wonder, the beauty, but also the changes. People who talk with others different from themselves and hear their stories.

I would like to ask you to consider a request. I would like to aggregate stories—your stories. A single event, something you saw or felt, a conversation you had that illustrates the importance of natural systems, or defines change.

I will compile these and find as many ways as I can to share them, to give voice to the voiceless, to flood the political community, not with statistics and science, but with stories from travelers who have seen and experienced things that they have not.

If you could keep them to no more than one page that would be great.

Please send your stories to: news@expeditions.com with MY STORY in the subject line.

Our relationship as humans with our environment has been so radically altered in the past 50 years that we will not be able to live up to the most important single promise our children deserve and have a right to: a world without diminished opportunity.

It’s really far more than climate change in isolation. If we are really honest, we must conclude that the world’s natural systems have been and continue to be under major assault. Nature in reasonable balance now only exists in pockets, national parks, marine protected areas, and reserves of one kind or another.
And while many of these assaults on natural systems are to some degree, or at least feel to some degree, regional, climate change is truly global.

Our behavior in Beijing, London, Tokyo, New York, and everywhere profoundly affects islanders you will never know in Kiribati, Inuits on the remote shores of Greenland, and nomadic tribesmen in Kenya. They have so little power, so little voice, yet they know about change, and they deeply fear for their children’s future.

This cannot be considered fair. Just as the reckless abandonment of global leadership cannot be considered fair.

Thank you for reading, and I hope to get thousands of stories—your stories—very soon.

All the best,

 

 

Sven Lindblad

P.S. I sincerely hope that this in no way sounds political. I, like you, am a traveler, and I feel a deep appreciation for what our environment has provided all of us. We need our natural systems to be healthy, alive and vibrant, no matter what our political beliefs may be.

T-24 Days: Quest’s Lounge Progress in Time Lapse

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Friday a compelling time-lapse video catches you up on the last seven days of progress.

T-25 Days: What Makes Quest Perfect for Alaska?

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Thursday see how the Quest features will enhance your expedition experience wherever you journey. Watch below then check back tomorrow to catch a time-lapse video of the past seven days.

What makes the National Geographic Quest the perfect expedition vessel for Alaska?
“There’s just so much to see, and it’s not always on a schedule. With wildlife like humpback whales, sea lions or bald eagles popping up at any given time, you always want a view. That’s why we think our guests will especially love the Quest’s dining room. Not just for the delicious food we will serve, but for the wraparound floor to ceiling windows and ability for incredible wildlife sightings when you least expect it. Forward, on the bow, it’s possible to have Dall’s porpoise riding the pressure wave created by the ship in motion. It’s an awesome sighting and with our tiered-viewing platform, guests will never have to fight for the perfect view. (Not to mention, the sun deck with its varied seating options and bar will the place to be as we take in the scenery in Glacier Bay National Park.)

I’m also excited about giving guests the opportunity to see what no one (not counting researchers) has ever really seen in Alaska. The undersea specialist routinely shares video footage of these rich waters—which is fascinating enough. But with Quest, we’ll be able to take things further, deploying a very maneuverable ROV to capture footage of reaches far deeper than divers are capable of going. Our guests will quite literally be able to see parts of Alaska unseen to anyone.

Being a summer destination and popular with families, I’m glad to see our travelers taking advantage of the six sets of connecting cabins in Categories 1 through 3. And those step-out balconies in the category 4 cabins – I can only imagine how freeing it will feel to be out there as the ship passes through Misty Fiords or the sheer faces of Tracy or Endicott Arm. But you won’t be spending too much time in the cabins, because the mountains will be calling and the array of kayaks, Zodiacs and stand-up paddleboards will be there to help you explore Alaska to its fullest.”

Marc Cappelletti, VP of Expedition Development 

T-26 Days: Quest’s Unique Mudroom

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Wednesday discover the special features that make the Quest so unique—from an unobstructed bow for superior views to a better bridge and more.

T-27 Days: The Building of the Lounge

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Tuesday exciting video direct from the shipyard in Whidbey Island, Washington delivers highlights from the past week. Watch below then check back tomorrow to learn more about Quest’s unique features.

T-28 Days: Q & A with Michelle Graves, Director of Expedition Development & Operations

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Monday Q&As with Lindblad-National Geographic staffers involved in the build give you a behind-the-scenes look and exciting new details. Michelle Graves is the Director of Expedition Development & Operations and one of the many people responsible for bringing National Geographic Quest to life.

Michelle Graves

What tools for exploration will be available on the National Geographic Quest?
National Geographic Quest will be equipped with a fleet of 16 double and 8 single sea kayaks, plus 10 custom-built stand-up paddleboards. Quest will also carry a hydrophone and a video microscope, as well as a small underwater camera for quick capture of underwater photos and videos. Our undersea team is equipped with a high-definition camera in an underwater housing, and an ROV for exploring deeper depths. For our tropical itineraries, National Geographic Quest will carry snorkel gear for all guests, including custom-designed shorty wetsuits. A full reference library, including nautical charts, as well as binoculars for guest use are available in the lounge.

How does the ship’s design aid in the deployment of these tools?
National Geographic Quest is equipped with cranes on the boat deck to rapidly deploy Zodiacs, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. The mudroom has expedition lockers for all guests, to keep boots or snorkel gear ready to grab and go. The mudroom also leads directly to the Zodiac boarding area, where twin ladders allow us to load two boats at once for quicker trips to shore. Or, we can load a Zodiac cruise from one ladder, while launching paddleboards from the other. The main lounge is designed so that all guests can be comfortably seated and view television monitors around the room, as our naturalist and undersea staff share images from the microscope, underwater video and ROV footage.

The National Geographic Quest will be the ship of its kind in Alaska, Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize to utilize an underwater ROV (Remote Operating Vehicle); can you tell us how it will be deployed and what you hope to find?
National Geographic Quest’s ROV is both highly capable and easily deployed. The undersea specialist and expedition diver can deploy the ROV from a Zodiac, and are actually able to “drive” it with a joystick controller. The computer controller is completely watertight, with dual monitors and video capture capability. The ROV allows us to explore depths well beyond which a diver can go, in search of unusual or deep-water species. The ease of operation of this ROV may also make it possible for some of our younger guests to join the undersea team in its deployment.

In which ways will the Quest’s tools for exploration help guests see (or hear) the world in a unique way?
Our kayaks and paddleboards allow for personal exploration of quiet coves in Alaska, as well as tropical rivers and lagoons in Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize.

The hydrophone can be deployed to listen to whale and dolphin sounds, and the video microscope allows guests to view tiny plankton in a sample of seawater, or the details of a bird’s feather on television screens mounted throughout the lounge.

The undersea specialist dives with the underwater camera, capturing video footage of a variety of marine organisms. This could be fish, invertebrates, and curious sea lions that guests may have seen while snorkeling, or rare and unusual species at slightly deeper depths. In Alaska, guests are surprised by the abundance and diversity of life in cold temperate waters. The undersea specialist routinely shares video footage of colorful anemones and nudibranchs, giant Pacific octopus, schools of rockfish in swaying kelp forests, or curious harbor seals underwater.

T-31 Days: Lounge Construction This Week

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Friday a compelling time-lapse video catches you up on the last seven days of progress.

T-32 Days: Meet the Nichols Bros. Shipbuilders

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Thursday get to know the Nichols Brothers, the builders responsible for bringing Quest to life. Watch below then check back tomorrow to catch a time-lapse video of the past seven days.

T-33 Days: Quest’s Unique Dining Room

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Wednesday discover the special features that make the Quest so unique—from an unobstructed bow for superior views to a better bridge and more.