Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Hornsund, Svalbard

    Last night, National Geographic Explorer sailed from Storfjorden around the southern tip of Spitsbergen to Hornsund, one of the most spectacular fjords in Svalbard. After breakfast, we were set ashore near a trappers’ cabin at Gnålodden. The name means “noisy point” and is known to derive from the sound of thousands of kittiwakes nesting on the sheer cliff above. Below, lush carpets of grass, moss, and purple saxifrage provided an ideal feeding ground for arctic geese. Gnålodden is a perfect example of the link between geology, nutrients from the sea, and plant and animal life. In the 18th and 19th century, man was the top predator, basing his hunting station on this productive ecosystem. By noon, the wind had picked up, but we were able to go for a Zodiac cruise in Burgerbukta. A few very scenic glacial fronts along the coastline were the highlight of our afternoon.

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  • Russebukta & Boltodden, Svalbard

    Guests aboard National Geographic Explorer visited the remote shores of Russebukta, Svalbard. Our guests departed the ship via Zodiac and were greeted with warm and sunny weather. Once ashore, expedition guides provided a variety of hikes—an Arctic bird walk, nature photography class, and longer hikes. We spotted numerous species of migrant birds returning from warmer winter regions to the south. Our bird expert, Jamie, was the first to identify red phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius), which are an interesting species for several reasons. Unlike many species of birds, the female red phalaropes exhibit a flamboyant red coloration during the breeding season. Females also compete for males, who end up caring for the eggs until they hatch.

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  • Kapp Lee & Eastern Spitsbergen

    There’s nothing quite like the sounds and smells of walrus in the morning! Guests began their day with a short (and wet!) Zodiac ride to Edgeoya, the second largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago. On the beach, approximately 20 male walruses were basking in the sun, making loud grunting noises but seemingly undisturbed by our presence. According to the naturalists, the female walruses and their pups were absent because they typically spend their time further northeast of where we were located. What a treat to be so close to these enormous marine mammals.

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  • Storfjorden, Edgeøya & Barentsøya

    Today National Geographic Explorer sailed through Storfjorden, “the big fjord,” which is actually a channel between the islands of Spitsbergen and Edgeøya. The word fjord, which usually defines a closed body of water, was initially used because a small opening to the north of the channel was covered by ice all year round. This blocked passageway made early explorers think that Barentsøya was effectively attached to Spitsbergen.

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  • Bellsund, Svalbard

    As guests awoke on board National Geographic Explorer, the ship navigated the fjord of Bellsund. Our first morning was spent exploring this scenic fjord system for wildlife while plans were made for an afternoon ashore at Vårsoleukta. This landing is a great introduction to the Svalbard tundra and one of the first places each year where snow melts, allowing wildlife to thrive.

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  • Krossfjorden

    National Geographic Explorer continued south into Krossfjorden to begin our last full day exploring the Svalbard Archipelago. The weather could not have been more ideal: blue skies, calm waters, and the stillness of brisk Arctic air. Krossfjorden had more snow than was expected but still made for a nice morning hike. We trekked through thick, white snow alongside prints left by an arctic fox. The view from the rocky summit was mesmerizing.

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  • Aboard Along Spitsbergen

    After the business of yesterday with three landings, this morning we had a chance to sleep in a bit with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast. Through the night, we cruised north and woke up in the northernmost part of the Spitsbergen Island, surrounded by ice. It was perfect habitat for scouting the horizon, looking for wildlife. We spent the day on the boat, carefully navigating around massive pieces of ice that surrounded the ship. Because we had the entire day on board the ship, we heard several presentations put on by both guest lecturers and natural history staff. Along the way, we spotted several seals and many species of birds. All the while, we had beautiful weather and calm waters—perfect conditions for the polar plunge! Those who were brave enough jumped into the freezing waters of the Arctic from a platform. After the plunge, the hotel crew onboard set up a barbeque on the rear deck where we had sausages and beer and great music for the afternoon. It was another wonderful day here in the Arctic!

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  • Svalbard: Forlandsundet

    The Midnight Sun. What an remarkable phenomenon, and one allowing us to experience a week’s worth of wildlife, all in 24 uninterrupted hours of crisp Norwegian daylight. And today the explorers took full advantage of it. Today, we woke to the beckoning of a blue whale off our bow as we cruised north through Forlandsundet, which set the tone, as it just one of many of the amazing wildlife sightings of the day—including Svalbard reindeer, walruses, and the endemic beluga whale!

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  • Svalbard: Hornsund

    Today we visited Hornsund, the southernmost fjord on the west coast of the island Spitzbergen in the Svalbard archipelago. We cruised deep into the fjord in the early morning and, because it was a bit windy in the main fjord, we proceeded south into another branch of Hornsund called Samarinvågen. As we approached the fast ice at the end of the fjord, we saw a polar bear walking on the fast ice, hunting for seal breathing holes. He walked slowly over the ice and occasionally lay down and rolled over to scratch his back. We were impressed by the lonely peripatetic life of a polar bear on the ice, living at the very edge of survivability with only his skill as a hunter and his incredible olfactory sense to ensure his success.

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  • Svalbard: Storfjord

    Svalbard is a huge High Arctic wilderness. Snow and ice dominate the landscape and thus searching for wildlife takes time and many hours traveling slowly through ice-choked areas. Today was dedicated to navigating through the remaining pack ice between the eastern side of Spitsbergen Island and the two large islands in the eastern part of the archipelago—Edgoya and Barentsoya. Not a typical narrow, high-walled fjord, Storfjord’s name translates to “large fjord.”

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