We awoke to the dulcet tones of expedition leader Lucho Verdesoto, who invited us to seize the day and the wonderful views outside. As we readied ourselves for the day and slowly filed into breakfast, we were treated to views of a huge glacier outside. We had arrived at Monacobreen! The large glacier is named after Prince Albert of Monaco, and two smaller glaciers are named for his daughters, Emma and Ida. After breakfast, we put on all our layers and prepared ourselves to Zodiac cruise near the glacier. We had already seen an impressive glacier, but now we would get to experience the sheer scale of the ice towering over our tiny Zodiac as we weaved our way through the brash ice and bergy bits. We observed the wonderful shades of ice. From the smallest piece of brash ice to the towering ice cliff, hues of blue and white surrounded us. We saw hundreds of arctic terns and black-legged kittiwakes swarming and feeding in the upwellings at the base of the glacier. Some of us were lucky enough to spot belugas feeding on the fish attracted to the glacier. It was a wonderful cruise despite the cloudy weather, which gave the glacier a moody aura.
We returned to the ship in time for a cup of coffee and to resume Dave Katz’s lecture on mobile phone photography. However, fate had other plans, and once again, the lecture was postponed for yet another wonderful sighting as a pod of belugas swam past the ship. Once again, we threw on our layers and made our way to the outer decks to enjoy the wonderful views. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We made our way to the restaurant to enjoy another delicious meal together as we shared stories from the morning.
After lunch, we prepared ourselves for our second activity of the day: a landing at Mushamna. Like the day before, we split into groups for short, medium, and long hikes in addition to a Zodiac cruise. All groups explored the cabins on the shorefront of the area. They were very impressive, as all were constructed by a Norwegian gentleman trying to escape the everyday rat race to the lonely shores of Svalbard. Some of the groups continued up the hillsides to meander along the pebbled ground. Along the way, we found several plants. We found flowers, too, which surprised us due to the tough environment. The flowers had wonderful colours that accented the greys and browns of the landscape. We experienced the wrath of Arctic terns when we accidentally strayed too close to their nests. We quickly returned to the path. Finally, we all wandered back down the hillside to the Zodiacs and returned to the ship in time for recap and dinner. We had a wonderfully busy day, and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.