Our course today took us along the wild north coasts of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. We explored the ice-choked entrances of the great fjords and farther south into Hinlopen Strait, which lies between the two largest islands of the archipelago. The icy world of April dominated the landscape with snowbound mountains towering over fjords paved with white plains of frozen ocean. Along the way, we kept a constant lookout for wildlife and found both seals and walruses. Then, in the late afternoon, we spotted our first polar bears, a beautiful mother with two tiny cubs. They had just emerged from their winter den.
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.