This morning, we awoke to a completely new sound: the sound of ice scratching and grinding against the hull of the ship! National Geographic Endurance shuddered and lurched as we started pushing through larger and larger pieces of ice on our way north. Soon after we were called to breakfast, we were treated to our first sights of the pack ice as we enjoyed a hearty breakfast. It was an incredible view! Huge pans of ice for as far as the eye could see.
After breakfast we spent time searching for wildlife from the decks. It was a roaring success with many walruses, ringed seals, and various seabirds spotted. Lucho made an announcement as we passed over 80°N to let us know that we had reached the northernmost point the ship has been this season. We reached the Seven Islands, which was an impossibility only a week ago. In the late morning, we were called to the ice lounge to enjoy a wonderful lecture from Javier Cotin on the seabirds of Svalbard. We learned so much about all that we have seen since our arrival in Svalbard. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. Today, we enjoyed the famous Endurance burger and fresh fish and chips.
After lunch, we hit the decks again to view some wonderful walruses that allowed us to watch them snooze on pieces of floating ice. Lucho made another announcement. Since it was such a lovely day in a beautiful location, the ship would be offering us the opportunity to polar plunge! While the crew and staff made preparations, over 40 of us prepared ourselves to surrender to the cold waters of the Arctic. Once all was in place, we lined up in basecamp for our turn. One by one, we jumped off the bow of the Zodiac as small icebergs drifted by. Squeals were heard as guests experienced the -0.5°C water followed by laughter and cheers with every new initiate. Everyone who jumped received a patch to commemorate the insanity, and we were greeted with hot cocoa back on the ship. We all scurried back to our rooms or to the sauna to warm up after the experience.
Next on the itinerary was teatime with a colourful arrangement of cakes and savouries for our enjoyment, followed by the last lecture of the day on polar bears by Carlos Navarro. We learned so much about the beautiful creatures we observed. Finally, it was time for recap and dinner. Tomorrow is our last day, and we plan to get up early to make the most of it!