Every once in a while, we get to experience a special day where it seems everything comes together, and all our wishes come true. This morning’s first activity was supposed to be a landing at an island named Edgeoya. However, when the scouting party went out for a safety landing, they discovered a large group of walruses hauled out on a tiny, nearby island. It was our first look at one of the most iconic animals of the Arctic, and we had amazing views. We even had a chance encounter with another Arctic species, king eider ducks. After a morning spent watching the marine mammals, we were once again ready to make our landing on Edgeoya after lunch. Edgeoya is a flat island where we hoped for the chance to see more Arctic wildlife. We were not disappointed. Our first sightings were of some very special shore birds, red phalaropes. These birds have the unique distinction of the female being much more colorful than the male. This is because the male does all the incubating of the eggs while the female goes off to find another partner to lay another batch of eggs. The hiking was boggy and difficult at times, but in the end, it all paid off with a wonderfully close encounter with reindeer, another one of Svalbard’s iconic animals. All in all, it was a perfect day, and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
National Geographic Endurance
We arrived at the Southern Cape of Spitsbergen this morning. Hopes were high for kayaking, which was cancelled at Mushamna a few days ago due to the arrival of two polar bears! Initially, winds around 10 knots were ‘borderline’ for kayak operations, so expedition leader Stef explained that we would wait to see if conditions improved. Thankfully, they did, and kayaking and Zodiac cruising commenced! The sky above us was grey, but that didn’t dampen our spirits; it was amazing to have the freedom to paddle around Isbukta (Ice Bay). Under the watchful gaze of the safety boats, we explored this beautiful area with the stunning Vasil’evbreen and Sørkappfonna glaciers. Small bergy bits drifted by, and we were in awe at the different shapes, textures, and colours. It was a quiet morning for wildlife, except for a large group of eider ducks, including the common and king species. After everyone had the opportunity to kayak and go on a Zodiac cruise, one important activity remained for those feeling brave: the polar plunge! After a quick Arctic dip, plungers were welcomed back on board with a hot drink and an iron-on patch as a reward. The afternoon was spent on board as National Geographic Endurance continued underway towards Longyearbyen. We enjoyed two lectures, a highly entertaining and informative talk by naturalist guide Erlend about his time spent living and working in Svalbard and an insightful talk by National Geographic photographer Erika about her time living with a family of Samí reindeer herders. The wonderful end to the final full day of our expedition was the guest slideshow compiled by photography guide Carlos. This was followed by a delicious Filipino buffet dinner celebrating the friendly, hardworking Filipino crew who we have come to know and appreciate during our voyage.