Siglufjörđur and Akureyri, Westfjords, 7/26/2022, National Geographic Explorer
National Geographic Explorer
Today we had a great opportunity to visit two towns, Siglufjörđur and Akureyri. We spent the morning at the Herring Museum, an amazing place dedicated to the history of herring, which sparked a “gold rush” on the island.
This morning, we woke up just off Værøy, one of the outer Lofoten Islands. For centuries, this has been a core area for cod fishing. After breakfast, we set ashore at Måstad on the southern side of Værøy. The primary livelihoods of fishing, agriculture, and bird hunting made this old fishing village one of the most unique settlements in Norway. Måstad had approximately 150 inhabitants up to World War II. The lack of roads, electricity, and a good harbour resulted in the closing of the only store in 1940, followed by the local school in 1953. The last residents left in 1974, and the last inhabitant of Måstad died in 1982. Today, the few remaining houses are a precious link to their descendants and are carefully restored and maintained as summer homes. We spent the whole morning ashore. Most of the guests chose to go hiking along an old horse trail that connects Måstad to the northern side of the island. Other guests preferred to walk around on their own. After a good lunch and a break, we docked at Reine, a vibrant fishing village in Lofoten. This village is framed by spectacular scenery and has a combination of old and new buildings. Up until the end of the 19th century, many cabins were constructed to offer shelter for fishermen coming with their rowboats. These cabins were called “rorbu,” or rower’s cabin, and were used by hundreds of fishermen and land-based workers. The village was a self-contained community where the squire was responsible for everything, from the cabins, the shop, the steamship office, and the bank, to the buying and exportation of cod. After an informative recap and another great dinner, our day of exploration had still more in store. Just after 9:00 pm, Captain Aaron and his team gently maneuvered National Geographic Endurance through the extremely narrow passage into Trollfjord, a very scenic little fjord to the north of Lofoten Islands. What a wonderful finale to another great day of exploration along the coast of Norway!
We arrived in Saglek Fiord on a windy Labrador day, the dramatic high cliffs of the fiord bearing witness to the sheer power of the glacial ice that carved them. Late August weather in northern Labrador can be uncertain -- the bright sunny days sometimes give way to howling winds and driving rain. But our weather luck held as we were treated to dramatic changes in light and shadow on the multi-hued rocks. The majestic beauty aside, we came to Saglek intent on kayaking the protected waters of the inner fiord. But our wildlife luck from earlier in the trip also held and we saw bears almost everywhere National Geographic Explorer sailed. First, we spotted a mother polar bear and two young cubs scrambling over the rocks and climbing the hill with an adolescent bear following along behind. Before long, someone spotted a black bear and then another polar bear. And so it went, until it became apparent that kayaking in this location wouldn’t be on the agenda! Instead, we took to the Zodiacs. After spotting yet another black bear, we found two red Adirondack chairs marking the start of a trail at the head of the northern fiord. A mother polar bear and her cub snoozed in the sun nearby, almost as if they were waiting to welcome the next group of hikers. In all, we saw eight polar bears and four black bears in a single afternoon. In the absence of pack ice, bears were on the land and sometimes in the water. In the past it was uncommon to see black bears so far north, but they now seem abundant, drawn to the crow berries ripening in the sun on the slopes of the surrounding hills. Location really is everything, and the calm waters of the inner fiord gave way to gusty winds and whitecaps as we headed back to the ship to see what the chef had planned for the evening.