Today became one of those incredible experiences that will long stay with us. It was packed with beauty, layer upon layer, until we were surrounded by the ethereal beauty of the aurora borealis dancing in the clear night sky.
This amazing day began with National Geographic Endurance making her way into Carlsberg Fjord. First light lit up the horizon with intense oranges and yellows; as these became brighter, we could see deep into the fjord and discern the steep mountains covered in a mantle of fresh snow. The reddish-brown bands on the mountains looked like a layer cake.
As the ship entered deeper into the fjord, we entered into full expedition mode. The ship deployed her forward-looking sonar; we watched as the officers interpreted the monitors and the ship made steady progress toward a possible landing site.
Along the way we spotted several musk ox, as well as a number of birds. Then the ship turned 90 degrees to port and headed to a glacier that had some sandy beaches before it. By this time the sun was sufficiently high in the sky to light up everything surrounding us in gorgeous Alpen pastel shades. Once the scout team were confident that there were no polar bears about, we headed ashore for our various hike options.
For the next hour and a half we feasted our eyes on fresh Arctic fox and hare prints in the snow, ice-crystal patterns in sand ripples, and snow decorating the rocks and pebbles along the shores. Some of us climbed a moraine to view the glacier, which was still a way off beyond a small bay that was not visible from our approach. The glacier glistened in the light and reflected whites and many blues from the crevasse-etched surfaces. Words can’t even begin to describe all the beauty before us.
As we returned, we stopped many times to try and capture some of these marvels with our cameras, particularly the reflections of the ship on the very still inland waters. Over lunch we tried to share some of the emotions we experienced with this sensory overload.
The afternoon was punctuated with a very enjoyable briefing about our disembarkation arrangements, our wonderful AEL lacing all the information with her great sense of humor. This was followed with a very special tea down in the laundry room, and from there we were able to visit the engine room control center. We learned more about all that goes on in this remarkable ship and those who work here. After tea we attended a presentation by undersea specialist Tani Peelgrane, entitled “Bones That Will Blow Your Mind.&rdquo
But the day was far from ended, for the Greenland coastline was ablaze with the warm colors from the setting sun; the mountains silhouetted, layer upon layer, in the evening haze. By this stage we were also surrounded by the sea ice which had worked its way south along the Denmark Strait. White pieces of glistening ice disappeared off into the distance. It was a magnificent scene. Suddenly dozens of northern fulmars, which had been feeding along the ice edge, flew past the ship, their feathers aglow in the lovely evening light. And slowly this wonderful day gave way to night.
Today was our last recap, so it was extended to accommodate all that the naturalists wanted to share after such a special day. Just after dinner there was an announcement that the northern lights were appearing, and we were invited up to deck eight to enjoy this magnificent spectacle. Over the next hour or so we were enthralled with the lazy meanderings of this incredibly captivating phenomenon.
What a day! What an end to the Arctic season for National Geographic Endurance. It was a true expedition day and one that will long remain with us.