We awoke to the beautiful winter scenery of Hellemofjorden. The first view that greeted most of us was of rounded mountain ridges rising out of the narrow fjord, the tops covered with a fine layer of newly fallen snow. It was another day of typical Norwegian weather: low clouds that occasionally offered a glimpse of the blue sky, whilst light rain, fine hail, and even snow made us aware that, yes, indeed…we were on our way north. We were definitely in the Arctic!
Our landing today was at the end of Hellemofjorden. From here, it is only about 3.7 miles (6 km) to the Swedish border! Snug in the steep mountain walls lies a tiny summer settlement called Hellemobotn, which is only accessible by boat. We quickly left behind the few houses, which are temporarily used by a group of Sámi reindeer herders. Many of us hiked across the diverse terrain, through one of those typical primeval, temperate Norwegian rainforests of conifers and birch. We continued alongside a river towards a waterfall that looked like a huge water slide. Some of us Zodiac cruised the fjord and explored this peaceful, remote place from sea level. Today was by far the coldest day of our trip, so everybody was happy to be greeted onboard with cups of hot chocolate!
We spent the afternoon onboard. After another delicious lunch, Captain Martin Graser invited us into the Ice Lounge for his presentation, "What is so special about this new Lindblad Expedition ship." He enthusiastically informed us about azipods, x-bows, ice-strengthening, and the amazing steering capabilities of National Geographic Resolution. In the late afternoon, we cruised Tysfjord, the deepest fjord in Northern Norway, reaching 2,943 feet (897 meters) below sea level. We stopped beneath Norway’s national mountain, Stetind, where the hotel department offered a wine tasting in the den on deck 8, accompanied by a delicious assortment of cheese and sweets. After this, we enjoyed an equally educating and entertaining lecture by Dennis, who talked about, "Plants and Lichens of Norway.” During the adjacent daily recap, Carl Erik Kilander enlightened us about the Sámi. These Finno-Ugric-speaking people inhabit the region of Sápmi, formerly known as Lapland. Kerstin Langenberger amused us with the story of Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III, a king penguin that happens to be colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King's Guard. National Geographic photographer Nick Cobbing gave us insights into his photography before our expedition leader, Stefano Pozzi, informed us about tomorrow’s plans. We rounded off our day with another fantastic dinner as we sailed silently through the fjords of Vesterålen.
National Geographic Endurance
Steaming along the skerries and fjords of Norway it’s easy to understand why the sea has had such a grasp on the culture. We wove through thousands of islands dotted with seasonal and permanent settlements. Many coastal Norwegians make their living off the sea: whether by fishing, farming salmon, caring for eider ducks, or tourism, the ocean’s bounty is before the mariners. We spotted Smøla Island on the horizon as the day began. Each one of these island villages has a unique culture and beauty to share, and we were eager to explore. Via Zodiac we crossed winding channels to land, where we boarded coaches en route to Veiholmen. This idyllic community is centered around a boat-filled harbor. The sculptures, boats, and tools of fishing around town all highlighted the relationship the people have with the sea. Our local guides shared many a story about the region and took us to beautiful corners of Veiholmen. Young gulls begged and squabbled about the flower-decorated lawns, a perfect combination of natural and crafted beauty. In the distance the wind farms churned. Notably, several of these turbines had black blades. An ongoing study since 2020 has shown that this change reduces mortality in birds by up to 70%. In a local museum we peeked through relics of the area, accented by the Hall of Fame: a series of posters showing high-profile musicians who have visited. A local cafe gracefully opened early for us where we enjoyed warm beverages and incredible pastries. Having such a warm welcome in a far-off land was well-received; the people of Norway sharing their culture with us was a greatly appreciated gift. Upon returning to the ship, we set our sights south. Gannets soared along a white-capped ocean as our natural history staff gave presentations about the region. As our voyage crept toward its end we were immersed in the beauty of Norway and the special experiences it gifted to us.