National Geographic Resolution made her way to the farthest point north that she will venture on our expedition. We explored pack ice at about 80 and even 81 degrees north. Keen eyes on the bridge spotted walruses and seals, and refreshments flowed onboard with spectacular abundance and quality. At the end of the day, we were treated to a view of “sea smoke,” an amazing phenomenon when the ocean (the Arctic Ocean!) is much warmer than the surrounding air, and steam rises from the waves.
National Geographic Resolution
Tak tak tak tak…yes, the weather forecast was right, and the magic atmosphere of last night’s sunshine has left in its place a grey and overcast sky. Pulled by gravity, the tiny raindrops reach the decks of National Geographic Resolution as she sails through the waters of Hornsund, the southernmost fjord in the island of Spitsbergen. Tak tak tak tak… Nevertheless, the mood onboard is one of intrepid polar explorers, and we enjoy views of ice on the mountain slopes. The 30 knot winds do not make it easy to stay out on deck, but for those brave enough to expose themselves to the Arctic conditions, this is a great opportunity. Tak tak tak tak… The first part of the morning passes with important briefings from expedition leader Stefano Pozzi about AECO guidelines for traveling in polar bear habitats. This is followed by the biosecurity process: we want to make sure we are not importing any seeds to the Svalbard environment. As we sail by the head of the fjord near a glacier known as Brepollen, our bridge team spots a majestic polar bear walking on fast ice. We are all excited by this amazing sight so early in our trip, and we enjoy watching this incredible animal in his natural habitat. Thanks to today’s weather, we can appreciate the tough conditions endured by the species who live here. Tak tak tak tak… After a lovely lunch, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the first landing of this voyage. We go for some beautiful hikes in a place known as Gnålodden. This is a cliff, home to thousands of nesting kittywakes. Gnålodden also has historical importance since we can visit a very well preserved trappers’ hut. Our sense of wonder is awakened by a few Arctic foxes that feel perfectly at ease in our presence as they hunt for eggs below the cliff. Watching them running and moving around is a real treat that few people are lucky enough to experience. We are so thrilled with the experience that we don’t even notice the rain has stopped: its sound is now replaced by the wind and the voices of thousands of birds: kittiwake, kittiwake, kittiwake… Upon returning to the ship, we enjoy a beautiful speech by Captain Martin followed by a welcome cocktail and a lovely dinner. As we sail out of the fjord, a few rays of sun start shining upon us and the wind drops down a bit. Maybe this is only our impression, but never mind. We are in Svalbard. The night won’t come.