At 06.00 hours, an announcement came over the public address system to let us know that a large group of humpback whales had been sighted ahead of the ship. We cleared the sleep from our eyes, tumbled out of bed, donned warm clothing, and headed for one of the open decks. Sure enough, ahead of the ship, and indeed all around the ship, there were groups of these magnificent marine mammals quietly going about their business of feeding. They seemed unperturbed by our presence. Seabirds flew overhead in the hope of picking off the scraps. The light was good, and cameras were heard clicking away as we strove to somehow capture this special moment. Off in the distance on port side, we spotted the silhouette of land. There were also quite a few icebergs. Some of them glistened under the rays of morning sunlight beaming down through gaps in the cloud cover.
As we made our way to breakfast, we headed into Neria Fjord, our destination for the day. It was a true expedition day as few ships have entered this fjord. Along the way, we passed a small hamlet that was occupied in the early 1840s. At times, it was occupied by over 200 people. It was finally abandoned in 1966, although the few remaining houses are in a good state and showed signs of recent occupancy.
As we headed deeper into the fjord, we came across another couple of humpback whales and the occasional seal. There was much excitement when a white-tailed eagle was spotted before it flew behind one of the mountains. The landscape was incredibly beautiful. Ancient rock formations, heavily eroded and sculpted by the enormous glaciers that once dominated these places, were crisscrossed by a rich lattice of dikes. Some of these dikes were very wide and others thin and delicate.
We spotted a good number of birds, of course, including black-legged kittiwakes, lesser black-backed gulls, and Iceland and glaucous gulls.
We reached the end of the fjord by the end of the morning, and two Zodiacs headed out to scout the area and come up with a plan for the afternoon. As we watched the Zodiacs head out, we had good views of a reindeer and white-tailed sea eagle, both on the coastline. The result of the scouting was a definite go for hikes of various lengths and kayaking in the glassy waters of the fjord.
Soon enough, various groups headed down the rocky coastline towards a stream that emptied its waters in a wide, flat valley. Off in the distance, a couple of waterfalls were visible, and one of them became the destination of the long hikers. The rest of us enjoyed the grasses and low trees along the coastline and the large erratics deposited by glaciers long ago. We observed evidence of Arctic fox prints and even some digging activities.
Off in the fjord, yellow dots could be seen. These were the kayakers out having a delightful paddle under the sunny skies and in calm waters.
By teatime, we returned to the ship, but the adventures were not over yet. The opportunity to partake in a polar plunge was announced. In no time at all and to a barrage of shouting and encouragement, a good number of brave and hardy souls jumped into the cold waters of the fjord.
After these frivolities, the ship slowly made her way out of the fjord as the clouds came in. It had been a delightful day. A true expedition day.