The first view that greeted most of us was one of the rounded mountain ridges rising out of the narrow Hellemofjord, with plenty of slide-like waterfalls gliding down the smooth, glacier-weathered rocks. Today’s weather was rather grey at first. Low clouds with strong winds were the harbingers of a powerful weather system that will stay with us for the next days, making us aware that, yes indeed, we are on our way north and definitely in the Arctic by now!

Our landing today was in the very end of Hellemofjorden. From here, it is only about 3.7 miles (6 km) from the border of Sweden! Snugged into the steep mountain walls is a tiny summer settlement called Hellemobotn, which is only accessible by boat. After dividing into groups for several walks, we quickly left the few houses behind, which are only temporarily used by a group of Sámi reindeer herders. Many of us hiked through a diverse terrain and through a typical Norwegian primeval temperate rainforest of conifers and birches and alongside a river towards a waterfall that looked like a huge waterslide. The weather turned out to be pleasant, and we even saw glimpses of the sun and blue skies!

The afternoon was spent on board. After another delicious lunch, we were cruising north and passed Norway’s national mountain, Stetind. Photo instructor Steve Morello talked about the dos and don’ts of people photography and gave us good tips on how to make natural looking portraits of both friends and strangers. This lecture was followed by naturalist Kerstin Langenberger, who did an intriguing talk on the “Penguins of Norway,” telling us about the extinct great auk, which was once called a penguin, and about the modern Antarctic penguins that were relocated to Norway. During our daily recap, underwater specialist Paul North showed us images of the plankton he encountered during yesterday’s dive. Naturalist Carl Erik Kilander then enlightened us about the Sámi, a Finno-Ugric-speaking people inhabiting the region of Sápmi, formerly known as Lapland. Expedition diver Peter Webster talked about how to age lifeforms through growth rings and showed us otoliths, fish ear bones, under the microscope. Last but surely not least, expedition leader Stefano Pozzi informed us about tomorrow’s plans. The day was rounded off with another fantastic dinner as we sailed silently through the stormy fjords of Vesterålen.