Last night, we made the open ocean crossing from the mainland to the islands of Svalbard. Our first island in the island chain was a small island called Bear Island. We were hoping to have our first Zodiac cruise, but the weather was not in a cooperative mood. High winds, rough seas, and rain prevented us from achieving our goal. Enter plan B. In expedition cruising, there is always a plan B, or a plan C, up our sleeves. Our exploration of Bear Island would be done from the comfort of our biggest expedition tool, National Geographic Endurance herself. From our decks, we watched as puffins, guillemots, fulmars, and kittiwakes flew to and from the island and followed our ship as we moved along the coast. Our morning was filled with wonderful observations that whetted our appetite for what is yet to come.

In the afternoon, we heightened our excitement with our mandatory polar bear safety briefing and our bio-decontamination of all the gear we would use ashore. Deck level by deck level, we mustered in the Base Camp, the area we use to prepare for all outings. There, boots were scrubbed, and clothing was vacuumed to remove any foreign seeds or other contaminants that might hitchhike on our clothing. This is done to ensure we do not introduce any plants into the environment of Svalbard. What we thought was going to be a relaxing day at sea turned into a day full of preparation for our adventure ahead of us.