Daily Expedition Reports

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26 Daily Expedition Report(s) match your criteria

  • At Sea, Greenland Sea

    After four very busy and extremely successful days in Svalbard it was time to head southwest towards eastern Greenland. Ahead of us are two full days at sea and we are following the edge of the famous Vestisen (‘West Ice’, named so as it is west of Norway), creeping along the coast of eastern Greenland. It is heavy multi-year sea ice, drifting out from the Arctic Ocean and into the Greenland Sea, which originates from eastern Siberia and guarded the Greenland coast hidden from visitors until recently. Already Frithjof Nansen in 1882 was able to establish the origin of the ice while he was onboard the ship Vikingen, by collecting sediment on the ice, which confirmed it came from northeastern Siberia. He never reached the coast, because of the ice, and returned to Norway very unhappy. Later with a lot of experience and knowledge that would prove to be of immense importance to his career as an Arctic explorer, he became the first to cross the Greenland icecap in 1888.

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  • Northeastern Spitsbergen, Fugelfjorden, Smeerenburgfjorden, Amsterdamøya

    At 0630 hrs the National Geographic Explorer is sailing into Fugelfjorden, “Bird Fjord,” toward Svitjodbreen (breen means glacier), an exit glacier from Valsahvøya icecap to the south. Bold, dark mountains carved by ice into sharp peaks rise steeply on either side. Cirques, cut into those mountains by glaciers, brim with ice and snow within while heaps of glacial till spill out of their lower edges. Snow and ice come right down to the sea; this is fitting, for Spitsbergen means “sharp peaks” and Svalbard “cold shores.” Above this lead-gray arm of the sea, low clouds hide the highest mountains. Soon Svitjodbreen is obscured by fog and a keening wind whips around outside the bridge, carrying whirling snowflakes. There will be no Zodiac operations here in these conditions. We turn and sail for Bjornfjorden in the lower reaches of Smeerenburgfjorden. Here the broad calving face of Smeerenburgbreen rises 60 meters above the sea water in the fjord. Soon we hear a loud cracking sound and a giant chunk of ice falls with a roar off the face of the glacier, sending out a great wave and leaving a big blue patch on the freshly exposed ice of the calving face. While waiting in hopes of another calving event we are astonished to see a great skua, the fiercest predatory bird in Svalbard, drive an arctic tern right into the water in a vicious attack that kills the tern. The skua then tears into the tern, having breakfast right there on the water between the ship and the glacier.

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  • Mosselbukta & Jarlfjellet

    Today we continued our exploration of the Svalbard archipelago on the northern part of Spitsbergen Island; during breakfast the National Geographic Explorer arrived at Mosselbukta.  

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  • Hinlopen Strait

    We spent the day in Hinlopen Strait, a long, narrow body of water that separates the two largest islands of the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet (Northeast Island). It runs on a northwest-southeast line, has a length of about 110 miles, and varies in width between six and 32 miles. The early morning found us near Kapp Fanshawe, located on the west side of Hinlopen Strait near Lomfjorden. The cape is marked by the high cliffs of Alkefjellet, which host one of the largest concentrations of nesting seabirds in Svalbard. At least 60,000 pairs of Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the vertical cliffs, along with a smattering of kittiwakes and glaucous gulls. The geological setting of the cape is unique and has been used in many textbooks to illustrate geological relationships. Gray, horizontal layers of sedimentary rocks that include shale and sandstone underlie the cliffs. These were deposited during the late Carboniferous Period, approximately 300 million years ago. The sedimentary layers were intruded by dark-colored magma approximately 140 million years ago during a phase of crustal extension. The captain and chief officer brought the bow of our ship right up near to the cliff face for a really close-up view of the rocks and nesting seabirds (Figure A). 

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  • Krossfjord, Spitsbergen

    Our various transoceanic migrants converged on Longyearbyen yesterday, jetting in from Australia, America, and Norway (those who explored the Norwegian fjords with Grace last week). National Geographic Explorer was at the coal jetty, a reminder of the industrial origins of Longyearbyen; American John Longyear set up the first mine in 1907. Here, the only town in Svalbard, the Norwegian government administers, monitors, and protects the archipelago of Svalbard, of which 70% of the land is National Park, Nature Reserve, or conservation site.  

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  • Woodfjorden, Spitsbergen

    The last full day of our expedition in Arctic Norway started earlier than usual; after having had such a wonderful polar bear encounter last night, we all went to bed happy and motivated. Little did we know that we were about to wake up at four in the morning to watch some more wildlife. And that was exactly what we did when our expedition leader announced that there were a lot of walruses outside!

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  • Hinlopen Strait Eastern Svalbard

    During the night we set a course that took us into the passage between northeastern Spitsbergen and the large island of Nordaustlandet. Hinlopen Strait is one of the passages of the “east side” of Svalbard between the many islands on this more remote area of the archipelago. Thick fog continued all night long and was engulfing the ship when we awoke. Although we could not make out what was surrounding us, there were numerous birds on the waters we were slowly passing through. Our destination for just after breakfast was announced as Kapp Fanshawe, a cliff section along the northeastern part of Spitsbergen Island. However, it was not until we got further along that we began to realize what we were about to experience. The numbers of Brunnick’s Guillemots continued to increase as flocks scattered trying to take off, which was difficult for them due to the flat calm wind conditions. Birds fluttered off into the featureless fog. But soon we could hear a chatter, becoming a din of noise and then through the fog appeared the vertical cliffs used by the nesting birds. 

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  • Hamburgbukta & Sea Ice

    It’s June 21st, the Summer Solstice, the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the High Arctic it is no different. So, you would expect the weather to be sunny and warm on the longest day of the year, and we were not disappointed! As the National Geographic Explorer dropped anchor off our landing site, Hamburgbukta, we had clear skies, and very mild temperatures for the planned activities this lovely morning.

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  • Storfjorden

    We spent most of the day within Storfjorden, an immense icy body of water that separates Spitsbergen and Edgeøya (Edge Island).  The early morning hour found us still celebrating Midsummer and as there was no sunset tonight, it wasn’t surprising that many people stayed up to watch a polar bear searching for seals on fast ice near Edgeøya.  Seals, both bearded and ringed, were scattered about over the ice surface, but they were too alert for any hunting bear to surprise them.  We later made our way south-westward over to Spitsbergen Island and spent time before breakfast searching for wildlife on the fast ice around Hambergbreen, a very scenic glacier.  There were many more seals to be seen hauled out on this ice, including bearded seals with rust-colored heads and thick moustaches, and of course plenty of ringed seals (sometimes improperly called bear food).  It was fun to also see several tiny ringed seal pups.  We were hoping to see another polar bear or two, but none was sighted, much to the relief of the seals, no doubt.  By late morning, we had sailed past Hedgehogfjellet (an interesting name) and reached Isbukta (Ice Bay).  There was plenty of ice in this large bay to interest us and we had fun cruising around amongst the ice floes with our strong, ice-strengthened ship. 

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Please note: Daily Expedition Reports (DER’s) are posted Monday-Friday only, during normal business hours.

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