Nansen Fjord, Greenland

Jul 10, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

Little did we know what was in store for us when we woke up this morning. It was a serene, magical morning in the sweet embrace of the fog. The kind of scene that demanded an appreciative, silent awe. Everyone on the bridge and the bow was speechless as we watched glorious icebergs sail past. The fog blurred the horizon lines and the ice appeared to float in a mystical place somewhere between the heavens and the Earth. We had arrived at the mouth of Nansen Fjord.

Like a shy friend, Greenland took a while to welcome us. The fog lingered until mid-morning, but as it lifted, we were greeted with the most glorious sight: amazing peaks surrounded by icebergs, plus a hint of the impressive glacier that lay 13 miles away. We cruised in Zodiacs, finally able to spot the shoreline and beautiful geology of Greenland. The sun grew stronger and stronger as the day continued, and by lunchtime, the fog lost the battle to the sun and blue sky. It became a glorious day!

In uncharted waters, the ship cruised closer and closer toward the base of Christian IV Glacier. All eyes were on deck, scanning the scene for wildlife. And then, at last, in the bridge, numerous staff and crew let out an uproar! A polar bear! At last! The bridge was instantly buzzing with excitement and energy. Everyone tried to get a look at this magnificent beast. She was perched on a piece of ice with a seal snack just barely (no pun intended) in view.

All eyes were on this bear, this denizen of the north that we were all desperate to see. We watched her as she went into the water and then came back out onto the ice floe. It became apparent that she had on a tracking collar, which told us this bear was a female—males’ necks are too thick to fit the collar. We continued to watch her until it became clear that she was watching us and getting slightly agitated by our presence. Our team made the call to leave her in peace, and slowly National Geographic Explorer backed away.

About 20 minutes later, we caught glimpse of what we thought at first was another bear. We soon determined it was the same bear we spotted earlier, taking a nap on a different ice floe. We enjoyed her for a short while longer and then said goodbye.

By this point, the sun was shining and there was hardly a cloud in the sky—it was clearly the perfect time for the polar plunge! Afterward 47 brave guests jumped in the icy water (3 degrees Centigrade), along with 9 crew and 9 staff before National Geographic Explorer made her way back out of Nansen Fjord toward our next adventure.

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About the Author

Karen Velas


Karen Velas cares deeply about protecting the environment and its wildlife.  Over the last 15 years, she has been involved with numerous conservation projects, including working as the Lead Project Coordinator on the California Condor Project with The National Audubon Society, managing projects in the flooded rice fields of California’s Central Valley with The Nature Conservancy and surveying the distant cliffs of Iceland to aid in puffin recovery with the South Iceland Research Centre.

About the Videographer

David Pickar

Video Chronicler

David Pickar is a native of Portland, Oregon. He studied anthropology at the University of Oregon, then spent several years working as a field archaeologist. Participating in excavations in countries like Jordan, Belize and Italy and in every corner of the US, allowed him to witness culture and the environment from an unusual perspective.

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