Today was a sea day as National Geographic Endurance proceeded to sail west along the Yukon’s and then Alaska’s North Slope in Beaufort Sea. In the first half of the day, from a distance, we were able to see Richardson Mountains with snow cover near the summits. These mountains and a part of the coastal plain are located within the Ivvavik National Park, famous for having the northernmost forest in North America, spectacular river canyons, and impressive geology. During the previous night, the ship passed some heavy concentrations of sea ice, but today we generally traveled in the open sea. During the first half of the day, we encountered several bowhead whales, including a mother and a calf. The calf stayed very close to the mother at all times.
Naturalists gave several excellent presentations today. In the morning, Natasha Slobodina spoke about, “Frozen Past: Archaeology in Permafrost and Periglacial Environments.” This talk was followed by undersea specialist and expedition diver Erin McFadden’s discussion of, “The Real Divers of the Arctic.” Erin explained how whales slow down their heartrates and collapse their lungs to be efficient predators at exceptional depths.
After lunch, Jenny Kingsley provided a tour for those interested in the ship’s permanent art installations. Around the same time, expedition leader Bud Lehnhousen presented about the current challenges resulting from climate change. His presentation was followed by an open discussion about solutions to these challenges, which included guests and naturalists.
Just as Sue Forbes started a photo feedback session with guests in the evening, a large pod of belugas was spotted. All were excited about this interruption. The pod included at least twelve animals, and they were travelling side by side in a straight line for quite some time.