Just ten minutes before the anticipated wakeup call at 0700 from expedition leader Russ, a call came over the PA that we had been waiting for! Polar bears! The bridge team had spotted three animals on the way into Antarctica Haven on Scoresby Land. We are still in the Northeast National Park, our destination this morning.
A mother and two cubs were walking across Knivodden on the south side of the bay. The family went in the water and started swimming along the shoreline. National Geographic Endurance followed the bears at a respectful distance so all on board could have a look. We spent a good half an hour looking through binoculars and spotting scopes as the bears continued swimming. Polar bears are incredible swimmers. They kept a good pace, and eventually, we continued back into the bay for our morning excursion.
The geography of Antarctica Haven includes two huge, glacially carved valleys with alluvial fans reaching the shoreline. After the scouting team deemed the landing site clear, we all headed ashore for hikes and walks.
One hike went straight up the mountain into a steep valley. As the hikers disappeared from sight, most of us wandered along the frozen water’s edge for a better look up the main valley. Since we had already seen polar bears this morning, it was not a big surprise to find polar bear tracks along the walk. We also spotted muskox tracks and a few fox tracks. Evidence of wildlife can be as exciting as the wildlife itself! Beautiful weather, no wind, and amazing scenery made for a very special morning.
After a lunch with spectacular views, we barely had time to put down our napkins before Russ announced three more polar bears. We had caught up with the bears spotted earlier in the day. This time, we were offered nice views as they walked onshore. We marveled at the speed of the bears as we measured the distance they had covered since we saw them last. After some time watching the polar bears, we continued to our intended site. On our way, we passed a beautiful island consisting of columnar basalt that contrasted beautifully with the red background.
We were given the options of a Zodiac cruise or a hike since we arrived at Fleming Fjord a little later than planned. We hiked up into the alluvial fan and suddenly we got a call from Russ. He had spotted a large white bird that turned out to be a white-morphed gyrfalcon! It was definitely a highlight of the afternoon.
Those of us who went on the medium hike got a pleasant surprise; it was harder and more vertical than the long hike in the morning, but we persevered!
The Zodiac cruise was a delight, allowing guests to admire the Greenlandic landscape. Again, we had the feeling of being dwarfed by the scale of it all.
We enjoyed our time and spent the whole evening outside with only a brief ten minutes in the Ice Lounge for Russ to share plans about tomorrow’s activities and the possibility of the aurora borealis tonight. Last night, we observed the best auroras yet. Fingers crossed for tonight!