We awoke to calm weather in Woodfjord, which is one of the northernmost fjords of the main island of Spitsbergen. It was a beautiful arctic morning: an ash grey layer of clouds stretched over the snowy mountaintops, whilst the sea acted like a huge mirror. We landed in a bay called Mushamna, or “Mouse Harbor.” We explored the barren polar landscape with its snow-covered tundra, some faraway reindeer, geese, and arctic terns. We had a good look at the wooden buildings associated with trapping, which has a long history here on Svalbard. During lunch, we continued our travels northwest and were called out to see not one but three polar bears: a mother with two 1.5-year-old cubs! They did not seem to mind our presence as they walked determinedly over a large ice floe. The bears seemed to pose for us before jumping into the water very close to the motionless ship. Many of us got great pictures when the big cubs jumped after their mother and followed her, head to tail, swimming right behind each other.

When we continued our journey west, we stopped one more time to watch some walrus resting on ice floes. After this, our guide Stefano Pozzi invited us to the Ice Lounge, where he told us about his adventurous year studying in Svalbard. During late afternoon, when many of us retreated into our cabins or up to the observation lounge for tea time, our expedition leader Peter Wilson surprised us with the announcement of a spontaneous Zodiac cruise! The carcass of a medium sized whale was washed ashore on the island of Indre Norskøya, which attracted two polar bears. From our Zodiacs, we were able to get a really good glimpse of the interaction between the bears and of the smaller one feeding on the whale carcass. The intensity of those wildlife encounters left most of us speechless! What an amazing day full of unforgettable experiences!