May 29, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer
Today we began our exploration of the main Spitzbergen archipelago, and it started with a bang! At 12:30 a.m., our expedition leader, Russ Evans, announced over the PA that he had spotted two polar bears on the ice. We jumped out of bed, dressed warmly, and hurried up to the bow, the bridge, and other vantage points. Captain Aaron Wood masterfully guided National Geographic Explorer through the close pack ice toward one of the bears, who was slowly eating his recent kill. He was a mature male and very healthy, very fat. We watched him for an hour and had many wonderful photo opportunities because of the midnight sun. He was aware of our presence but was quite focused on his seal-meat meal. Finally, we left him to his dinner.
In the morning, after some much-needed sleep, we relocated the ship to Hornsund, one of the large fjords on the west side of the island of Spitsbergen. We cruised the fjord in search of wildlife and although the visibility was sometimes poor, we had wonderful views of the great mountains of Spitzbergen lining the fjord. In the afternoon, we stopped to take our Zodiacs ashore for a short walk and then a Zodiac cruise in front of two magnificent glaciers, which entered the fjord from the ice field in the south. We were able to observe eider ducks and guillemots on the thin ice. We were able to break through the ice with the Zodiacs to find some ringed seals on the ice near the glaciers. This was our first experience with the Svalbard cold, and it tested our clothing—and us. Overall, it was a very nice afternoon in the fjord, and we returned to the ship ready for some warmth.
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