We were awoken on our first day of the expedition to the dulcet tones of our expedition leader Lucho, who reminded us to seize the day and join the team searching for Arctic wildlife. We all headed to the restaurant to enjoy our first breakfast aboard the ship. Some of us had been awake for some time already. A thick fog surrounded National Geographic Endurance, giving an eerie feeling as we glided between chunks of ice in the water. Sometimes the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see more than a few hundred meters around us. There was still some wildlife to spot, including several guillemots and the odd walrus hauled out on the ice in the distance. We spent the morning exploring the sea ice, on the lookout for anything interesting. The fog began to lift eventually, revealing the jagged coastline of Northern Svalbard.
Midday, we returned to the restaurant for a quick bite before preparing for our first landing. The expedition team went out first to check that the location was polar bear free and therefore safe to roam. Once the all clear was given, we loaded up our Zodiacs and headed ashore. We were given the option of three different walks, including short, medium, and long. The long hikers headed off with their guides to observe the hut at the north end of the landing site. The medium hikers took to the ridges. As the fog cleared, they explored the surrounding hills and valleys beyond the beach. The short hikers took a stroll around the bodies of water close to the landing site to observe red-throated divers, Arctic terns, and pink-footed geese. One Arctic tern was found sitting on a nest of two eggs. We watched her for a little while as her partner returned with some food for her. The partner was not so enamored with our company, so we moved on. The views of the ship in the fog were beautiful, and the more it cleared, the better we could see the striking mountains surrounding us.
All too soon, it was time to return to the ship. We loaded into our Zodiacs and arrived back in no time, which was lucky as we only had a little time to prepare for the evening’s event, the Captain’s cocktail party! We quickly shed our outdoor gear and went to our cabins to get ready for the party. We headed to the ice lounge and enjoyed ordering from the extensive cocktail menu with something for everyone. Lucho then gave us a little teaser of tomorrow’s activities, which was followed by the captain’s introduction. Once we finished our cocktails, it was time to head to the restaurant for a wonderful dinner before returning to our cabins for a well-earned rest so we would be ready for an early morning tomorrow.