Horsund, Southwestern Spitsbergen, 6/27/2022, National Geographic Endurance
National Geographic Endurance
Today is our last day of exploration in Svalbard before we head into the open ocean, visit Bear Island, and then go to mainland Norway. In order to make the most of the last day, we visited Horsund, the southernmost fjord system in Svalbard.
Tall and majestic cliffs surrounded National Geographic Endurance. Our guests departed for multiple activities, including long and medium walks and Zodiac cruises. The Zodiac cruises took some of our guests far inside the fjord, reaching the glacier front. What an impressive place to be for our last day in Svalbard.
And with no sunset, during dinner we made our way in search of new adventures.
Javier 's passion for birds and nature began as a child exploring the Pyrenees mountains with his father. The mystery that surrounds the Lammergeier silhouette triggered his curiosity and interest towards wildlife. Javier studied biology in Spain and...
Wow! What an amazing day, and so unexpected after our exciting but chilly days in Svalbard. Suddenly we found ourselves in almost tropical northern Norway, with brilliant sunshine and temperatures soaring into the mid-20s °C. In the early morning, we sailed into the lovely little fiord in the northeastern part of Sørøya Island. We were treated to wonderful, clear views of a surprisingly green island. There were trees (albeit small ones)! There were grasses, lush ground cover vegetation, and even sheep! Sørøya is Norway's fourth largest island, and this northern gem is considered one of Norway’s most beautiful. We made our morning landing in beautiful Mefjord to allow walking groups to disembark and go ashore. Zodiac cruisers explored the coastline and searched for eagles, seabirds, and coastal rock formations. The walkers toiled up a steep slope along a rough farm track on this rocky and mountainous island. They were then able to enjoy the expansive, lush tundra landscape with tiny pools and even patches of low birch and willow “forest” here and there in sheltered ground. The path passed through delightful swaths of wildflowers: sun-tracking mountain avens, bright cranesbills, insectivorous butterworts, low-growing crowberries, and even junipers, among others. The trail wound through and over low hills, passed a large tarn with a cabin beside it, and eventually led down to a sandy cove. We’d flushed an arctic hare and even willow ptarmigans on the way to the cove, and we heard the singing of several territorial bird species, including bluethroats, bramblings, and redwings. The biggest surprise of all was at the water’s edge. There, we observed a small herd of reindeer and their calves drinking saltwater! This unusual behaviour of the arctic species allows individuals to obtain the salts they need which are not available from their diet — especially on a surprisingly hot summer day. Meanwhile, our Zodiac cruisers enjoyed spectacular, rugged coastal scenery and sightings of many seabirds along with the enormous white-tailed sea eagle — the most dramatic bird of the region, equivalent in size to the bald eagle of North America. As we sailed away from our morning’s landing site in Mefjord, bound for Tromsø, we glimpsed harbour porpoises and minke whales, adding further excitement to a wonderful day. Our day ultimately ended with our trip slideshow and video and Captain Aaron Wood's Farewell Cocktail Party. Our final day was a fitting finale for a marvellous voyage in Arctic Norway.
As we approached Bear Island in the early morning, slowly working our way through thick fog and 25 knot winds, the island occasionally loomed through the white veil, giving us a tantalizing glimpse of this wild and difficult to reach location. Our planned anchorage at Sørhamna located on the southeastern side of the island was in direct line with the wind and swells coming from the south. Unfortunately, the great cliffs on the southern end of the island with their swarming bird colonies would have to wait for another day when the weather would allow us safe passage with the Zodiacs. Instead of abandoning the day’s activities, the captain decided to circumnavigate the entire island, searching for possible shelter around the north end where a couple of commercial ships had chosen to shelter from the weather. As we rounded the northern shore, the fog banks rose to reveal a beautiful blue sky and calm water. Expedition leader Lucho and the captain made a snap decision to lower the Zodiacs and take advantage of the opportunity to explore the northeastern shore. This was a first for all. It turned out to be a wonderful collection of small cliffs, bays, and coves dotted with nesting fulmars and occasional puffins. Guests on the cruise took in a couple of beautiful arches and small sea caves that were accessible by the Zodiacs, providing us with beautiful views and exciting moments. We made the most of the occasion in the sun and calm waters. When we could delay no longer, we slowly returned to the ship to continue to mainland Norway. In typical expedition style, flexibility and patience rewarded us with a very pleasant morning and a new location to add to the many we love so dearly.