Rømer Fjord, Greenland

Jun 24, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

This morning we awoke in Rømer Fjord, just south of where we were yesterday. The sky is overcast, with a fog bank over the open ocean in the distance. We are stopped, with fast ice in front of the bow. Here, in east Greenland, the end of June is like the beginning of spring. The ice looks thin, with pools of meltwater everywhere. It is stong enough to hold bears, however, and they seem to be everywhere: standing, swimming, laying, and walking. One of them begins to walk towards us in a curious fashion. Is it the sound of the ship that has attracted the bear’s attention? Or is it the unnatural size, shape, and color? Or maybe the silhouettes of people on the bow and monkey deck?  I suspect the answer is, “all three,” as I look out the dining room window, finishing up the last of my bacon.

We stay with the fast ice and bears until after breakfast, wisely deciding to forego our planned landing just a few hundred yards away. Now we need a new landing site. We try a tributary fjord and quickly find some more ice and more bears. Time to try some place further away!

Late in the morning, Captain Skog and expedition leader Lucho decide to try a new place that none of us (and apparently no survey ship) has been. We are facing a short fjord, very protected from seas and wind and perfect for kayaking. There is one glaring problem, however: no depth soundings on the chart. This exercise is going to be a bit slow. Lucho is anxious to get us off the ship, so he takes a Zodiac and a couple of staff to scout the area. The Captain eases National Geographic Explorer into the fjord, preceded by a Zodiac with sounding equipment. He stops the ship just short of a submerged terminal moraine, a monument to the past glory of the local glacier. All was well until the report from the scouting party. A polar bear was within close range, so the search for a disembarkation location had to continue elsewhere!

By mid-afternoon, we have found another place for Zodiac tours and kayaking. Later, we see bears and more bears―even a mom and a tiny cub. For us, June 24th will always be known as the Day of Bears; we saw more than 20, fewer than 50. So, we wonder, what will tomorrow bring?

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About the Author

Dennis Cornejo


Dennis began scuba diving during the mid-1970s as part of a research project. At the time he was a research associate at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, studying the population of winter hibernating sea turtles.  What began as a scientific study soon became a conservation project that expanded to three species of sea turtles along the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.  This project received major funding from the World Wildlife Fund and was eventually taken over directly by that agency with Kim Clifton and Dennis Cornejo as co-principal investigators.

About the Photographer

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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