What a glorious and bright sunshiny day in the Vestmannæyjar (Westman Islands)! We sailed in early to Heimaey, and with the assistance of a local pilot, Captain Heidi spun the ship in place and expertly backed National Geographic Resolution alongside the dock. From here, we set out on our hikes and tours. The more adventurous among us hiked up Eldfell Volcano while others enjoyed coach tours of this beautiful and geologically very young island. On the tours, we saw volcanoes, puffins, and adventurous mountain-climbing sheep as well as beautiful landscapes and seascapes all around. We all visited the superb Eldheimar (Fire World) Museum that describes the unexpected 1973 eruption of Eldfell Volcano. In the afternoon, we sailed south into Vestmannæyjar and circumnavigated the famous Surtsey for which all volcanic eruptions of its style are now named. We also visited a gannet colony where the cliffs and the air were filled with gannets.
National Geographic Explorer
We arrived in Saglek Fiord on a windy Labrador day, the dramatic high cliffs of the fiord bearing witness to the sheer power of the glacial ice that carved them. Late August weather in northern Labrador can be uncertain -- the bright sunny days sometimes give way to howling winds and driving rain. But our weather luck held as we were treated to dramatic changes in light and shadow on the multi-hued rocks. The majestic beauty aside, we came to Saglek intent on kayaking the protected waters of the inner fiord. But our wildlife luck from earlier in the trip also held and we saw bears almost everywhere National Geographic Explorer sailed. First, we spotted a mother polar bear and two young cubs scrambling over the rocks and climbing the hill with an adolescent bear following along behind. Before long, someone spotted a black bear and then another polar bear. And so it went, until it became apparent that kayaking in this location wouldn’t be on the agenda! Instead, we took to the Zodiacs. After spotting yet another black bear, we found two red Adirondack chairs marking the start of a trail at the head of the northern fiord. A mother polar bear and her cub snoozed in the sun nearby, almost as if they were waiting to welcome the next group of hikers. In all, we saw eight polar bears and four black bears in a single afternoon. In the absence of pack ice, bears were on the land and sometimes in the water. In the past it was uncommon to see black bears so far north, but they now seem abundant, drawn to the crow berries ripening in the sun on the slopes of the surrounding hills. Location really is everything, and the calm waters of the inner fiord gave way to gusty winds and whitecaps as we headed back to the ship to see what the chef had planned for the evening.