May 30, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer
We woke up this morning to a sky full of birds. The ship was pulled up close to Alkefjellet, near Cape Fanshawe, by 6 a.m., and we spent the early morning in front of a beautiful series of cliffs that are the nesting site for over 100,000 breeding pairs of Brunnich’s guillemots, in addition to glaucous gulls and kittiwakes. Hundreds of birds flew over our heads and hundreds more swam around the ship. Early light and some beautiful mist made for a gorgeous start to the day.
From there, we headed south in Hinlopen Strait in search of ice and wildlife. We found a walrus almost right away, and the captain approached so slowly that we were all able to get a good look. Soon after, we caught a brief glimpse of some beluga whales. Next, we attempted some walks on a small island called Wahlbergøya, but the ice ashore was too thick to make a safe landing, and we had to move on.
From here, we headed north through the ice, scanning steadily. After lunch, one of our guests spotted some more beluga whales, and this time they stayed nearby. We approached carefully until we could see one of the whales both above the water and underneath it. We watched it dive repeatedly and admired its lovely heart-shaped flukes.
By mid-afternoon, we were all ashore on the western side of Hinlopen Strait at a glacier called Buldrebreen. Our short and medium hikers walked the beach towards the glacier and our long hikers managed to get right up to the ice edge. It’s possible we were the first people to walk on some of this ground, which was very recently uncovered due to glacial retreat. The long hike then ascended a small ridge for a view of both the glacier and the strait beyond.
We used our evening to enjoy some final views of the strait before we begin traveling south tomorrow.
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