The day started off with the AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) orientation given by expedition leader Peter Wilson. This was followed by a review of policy and procedures in polar bear country by Doug Gould. After this, everyone attended clothing decontamination in Base Camp. This is where we clean any exterior clothing to make sure we do not bring any contamination into the Arctic. In the afternoon, all guests were invited to a cruise of the southern tip of Bear Island. The seas were active with one- to two-meter swells. The air was filled with puffins, guillemots, and fulmars circling around the steep cliffs. There were high, thin clouds most of the day. The sun burned through for a short time in the afternoon. Temperatures were between 0 to 5°C.
National Geographic Endurance
Steaming along the skerries and fjords of Norway it’s easy to understand why the sea has had such a grasp on the culture. We wove through thousands of islands dotted with seasonal and permanent settlements. Many coastal Norwegians make their living off the sea: whether by fishing, farming salmon, caring for eider ducks, or tourism, the ocean’s bounty is before the mariners. We spotted Smøla Island on the horizon as the day began. Each one of these island villages has a unique culture and beauty to share, and we were eager to explore. Via Zodiac we crossed winding channels to land, where we boarded coaches en route to Veiholmen. This idyllic community is centered around a boat-filled harbor. The sculptures, boats, and tools of fishing around town all highlighted the relationship the people have with the sea. Our local guides shared many a story about the region and took us to beautiful corners of Veiholmen. Young gulls begged and squabbled about the flower-decorated lawns, a perfect combination of natural and crafted beauty. In the distance the wind farms churned. Notably, several of these turbines had black blades. An ongoing study since 2020 has shown that this change reduces mortality in birds by up to 70%. In a local museum we peeked through relics of the area, accented by the Hall of Fame: a series of posters showing high-profile musicians who have visited. A local cafe gracefully opened early for us where we enjoyed warm beverages and incredible pastries. Having such a warm welcome in a far-off land was well-received; the people of Norway sharing their culture with us was a greatly appreciated gift. Upon returning to the ship, we set our sights south. Gannets soared along a white-capped ocean as our natural history staff gave presentations about the region. As our voyage crept toward its end we were immersed in the beauty of Norway and the special experiences it gifted to us.