Blue skies in the High Arctic marked the start of the day on board National Geographic Endurance. We were all excited about the beginning of our expedition in Svalbard. During the morning, a keen expedition team introduced themselves to the guests. This was followed by a series of briefings that left us better prepared for the next few days. All this happened as we sailed along Krossfjord, a large fjord system located in the northeast of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. At the end of the fjord, the ship offered spectacular views of Lilliehookbreen, the largest of several glaciers present in the area. We all enjoyed the sound of the calving ice and views of kittiwakes, auks, and arctic terns as the birds fed in the water, flew around the ship, and rested on glacial ice.

After lunch, we had our first landing at the site of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. We joined hikes of different lengths and learned about the area known as the “hanging gardens.” We experienced a true arctic summer day surrounded by flowering arctic species of plants, mosses, and lichens. We spotted a few Svalbard reindeer grazing on a green slope under a large colony of kittiwakes, as well as a group of barnacle and pink-footed geese. Some of us opted to take a Zodiac cruise that rewarded us with sightings of guillemots and puffins nesting on the cliffs and scenic views of the face of the glacier.