It is a busy day this last day of our trip. However, just like every other morning of this trip, Helga our talented receptionist and musician serenaded us with her beautiful piano playing, drawing many of us to the lounge. We enjoyed a fabulous breakfast, once again. Our rental gear was collected just prior to Alex giving the disembarkation briefing, which brings the reality of our departure into clear relief.
Sadly, today was our final in Russia. Before departing, though, we traveled south to Provideniya, the administrative center of Chukotka, to pass through customs and to experience this unique community. Provideniya was formerly a bustling military port of the Soviet era that in recent decades has declined in population, leaving many of the buildings vacant. We were warmly welcomed with performances held in their cultural center.
South through the Bering Strait we sailed over night. The pastel dawn gave us hints of Big Diomede Island off our port side. All morning we sailed toward Lorino, during which naturalist Rich Kirchner taught us about the various wildlife adaptations to the Arctic environment. The photo team, National Geographic photographer Corey Arnold, photo Instructor David Cothran, and undersea specialist Peter Webster surveyed photography submitted by guests the day before.
Today we made two very special landings on Wrangel Island. Our first site was located at 180°W—or was it 180°E? This is an intriguing location where you can stand on 180° longitude, putting yourself in both the East and the West simultaneously. We also had the chance to visit the Wrangel Island Ranger Station to get a taste of what life is like living on the Island.
At precisely 6:00 a.m., National Geographic Orion approached Cape Blossom, the extreme south eastern point on Wrangel Island. The seas were glassy calm and the skies overcast and as our eyes became accustomed and not a breath of wind, this bode well for our first day on Wrangel Island. Some buildings could be discerned close to the point of the sandy spit, these were formerly used as a weather station and then by mammal scientists, and then right on cue the first bears were sighted along the coast. By the time the ship began her slow navigation north along the west coast many were up with binoculars and cameras at the ready and a cup of strong coffee in the other hand. The air of expectancy onboard was palpable. In the blink of an eye the bear count had already exceeded ten.
Wrangel island is a good day’s sail from Kolyuchin island, so National Geographic Orion has been steaming all night and most of today to reach our rendezvous with the Russian rangers we are receiving to accompany us around the island. The weather has been calm throughout the day and by the afternoon there was barely a breeze and just a very gentle ocean swell to carry us along. There was a presentation filled day covering polar bear biology, the ancient land of Beringia, the people of the north and birds of the Arctic. It was also scone day! With fresh cream and jam…
At about 6:30 a.m. National Geographic Orion approached a small island just off the northeastern tip of Siberia. Our goal this morning was to cruise part way around the island to look for wildlife and find a calmer anchorage to launch the fleet of Zodiacs, for a day full of cruising in these amazing inflatable boats along this island’s shore!
Our great ship, National Geographic Explorer, meandered her way into the beauty of one of Greenland’s most picturesque fjords, heading to Kangaamiut. Our morning was filled with presentations by Emmett Clarkin giving a presentation on “The Motion of the Ocean,” followed by Karen Copeland discussing “Feeding the North.” In the afternoon, guests were given the opportunity to cruise as close as possible to the calving ice of a very active glacier. The cracks and growls and roars and howls were incredible as ice fell into the ocean, delighting guests and staff alike.