The crossing from Iceland to the coast of East Greenland was smooth and surprisingly speedy! We made good use of the morning at sea with mandatory briefings to prepare for the Arctic, a fun talk by Dagny about life and culture in Iceland, and some seabird spotting. By late morning, the forbidding, dramatic Blosseville Coast appeared on the port side of the ship. This flood basalt landscape features some of Greenland’s highest mountains in its rarely glimpsed interior, and it makes for a perfect introduction to this harsh part of the world.
As we prepared to enter the fjord proper, a surprise quickly presented itself. What looked for the longest time like a snow patch turned out to be the first polar bear of our voyage. The bear was a beautiful individual that looked to be in good shape with a few weeks to go until the return of the sea ice for the winter. After getting impressively close with the ship and observing the bear from the bow, we made our way into the fjord in preparation for an afternoon Zodiac cruise. Our first observation was a rare meteorological phenomenon–sun dogs were visible around the sun. These bright spots are part of the 22° halo caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals high in the atmosphere.
Our Zodiac cruise turned into a real wildlife spectacle! Within a few minutes, we spotted two walrus and yet another polar bear resting on the beach. We had fantastic views from the Zodiacs. With our voices lowered, we enjoyed the bear as well as a group of harp seals that swam past the boats. Further inside the fjord, the first slivers of grease ice coated the water, harbingers of the approaching winter. Nights are cold enough for ice to start forming in calm conditions.
Towards the end of the cruise, we came across a shy bearded seal hauled out on a flat iceberg, basking in the late afternoon sun. With such a famously skittish species, we took care to approach slowly and to maintain appropriate distances, and the seal was undisturbed by our presence. This was a particularly rewarding way of interacting with wildlife.