National Geographic Endurance awoke surrounded by the heights of a Norwegian fjord. Choosing Loen as our first destination, guests set out to explore the mountainous landscapes and the treasures within. A highlight was the local sky lift, which sent our explorers to a height of 3,000 feet in a matter of minutes. This true feat of engineering led to a most spectacular view. From such a height, our mighty vessel looked small as a child’s toy. Perhaps the grandest reward of the day was the perfect weather. A day of sunshine and reflections, whereas often southern Norway is one of the wettest places in continental Europe. It was a great start to what is certain to be a spectacular voyage.
Photographers: Paul North, Dr. Rebecca Smith-Coggins, and Ezra Siegel
Paul North is the founder of the educational nonprofit Meet the Ocean and host of its online podcast. As a polar diver with Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic, he tours the remote underwater landscapes of Antarctica and other sub-zero destinati...
We awoke to the gentle voice of expedition leader Stefano Pozzi, who greeted us to an overcast day in the city of Bergen. After a wonderful breakfast, many of us spent the morning in Bergen, either exploring the city on our own or on one of two guided trips. Two buses left to visit the beautiful Fantovt Stave Church from the year 1170. Another stop was made at the Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen, home of composer Edvard Grieg for 22 years. Guests more interested in hiking visited Fløyen, one of the mountains in Bergen. The funicular "Fløibanen" ascended 300 meters (984 feet) over a total track length of 850 meters (2,789 feet) to a viewing platform that offered stunning views of Bergen and its environs. Luckily, the weather and visibility were good, which are not givens in a place that "enjoys" 239 rainy days a year. Two hikes went to the pond "Skomakerdiket," and some guests chose to explore the area on their own. After returning to the ship, we enjoyed the first of many delicious lunches in one of the ship’s two restaurants. Soon the ship set sail! Whilst enjoying afternoon tea and / or a "mandatory nap," we steamed along the green coastline of southwestern Norway, which is sprinkled with holiday cabins and small settlements. During the afternoon, Stefano called us into the ice lounge for an introduction to our knowledgeable expedition staff. This was followed by the first lecture of the trip. Photo instructor Steve Morris gave an introduction to smartphone photography. Right afterwards, Captain Aaron Wood welcomed us to the ship during the official Captain’s welcome. He introduced us to some of his team before sending us to a marvelous dinner in Two Seven Zero, one of the ship’s restaurants. Sated and content, most of us headed off for an early night, knowing we’d rise fairly early the next morning for new adventures!
It’s hard to believe that our amazing journey together is coming to an end. Today’s expedition in Bamsebu in Bellsund treaded an oddly comfortable line between the utterly foreign wilds of the High Arctic, and the now familiar embrace of a landscape we have fallen in love with. The wind was brisk, but explorers of all interests set out to absorb the scenery with new flames of intrigue, ignited by our two weeks of exploration. Discarded reindeer antlers, whalebones left behind from human activities of the past, old ships, ancient fossils, lichens, mosses, fresh buds of spring plants: we were surrounded by a plethora of curios set amongst stunning scenery and snow topped mountains. As we took time to talk about what we had seen in the morning during our afternoon “recap,” we were interrupted by a radio call from our captain. The folks on the bridge had spotted something white and fluffy on the ice ahead! Our time in Svalbard concluded, stunningly, with one last solitary polar bear ambling along the last remaining fast ice of the season. How lucky we have been on this incredible expedition!