Wow! What a day!

After leaving Tromso, we set sail yesterday evening and awoke to clear, sunny skies on a warm morning. We sailed to our first destination of Senja Island on the north coast of Norway. We could not have asked for better weather! Shortly after a wakeup announcement from expedition leader Lucho encouraging us to head to breakfast, he announced that a sperm whale was off the bow! Before we could get our cameras, Lucho came back on saying that the whale fluked, indicating it had taken a deep dive which could take it down for a long time. We continued on our way to Senja.

After breakfast, we were called to the Ice Lounge. Hotel manager Petula Clark gave us a virtual tour of the ship on the monitors, followed by fun and lighthearted introductions from each member of our expedition team. Next came Lucho, who formally introduced himself and informed us about what we can expect, operationally, on our expedition. Afterwards, we watched a Zodiac safety video and received instructions on kayak safety.

Photo instructor Carlos began his presentation on cell phone photography. About halfway through, Lucho came over the PA again to announce that a pod of pilot whales had been spotted! We raced onto the decks, where dozens of the cetaceans were putting on a show of spyhopping and breaching! Nearby, a local whale watching ship came close to National Geographic Endurance and then turned back to view the whales.

After lunch, we arrived at Senja Island and to the mouth of Selfjorden for our first Zodiac ride. The weather had gotten warmer during the day, and it was about 64 degrees when we pulled away from the ship. It felt like a summer day on a lake back home in the USA! Some of the guides even shed their parkas! We motored into the shallow, Caribbean-blue water of the fjord and began to explore. We spotted numerous bird species, including herring gulls, long-tailed ducks, oystercatchers, and Arctic terns. We meandered down the coastline, deeper into the fjord, and at the back of it we met up with naturalist Anne. We formed a flotilla with the other Zodiacs while Anne shared a Norse story about a troll and then sang us a traditional Swedish song. It was a beautiful surprise.

Back on board after the day’s activities, we dressed for the Captain’s Cocktail Reception. We got to mingle with our fellow travelers and share excitement about the first day of our expedition. Lucho gave us an overview of tomorrow’s activities, and then the captain welcomed us aboard, telling us about the construction of National Geographic Endurance. Dinner followed but was cut short when a couple killer whales appeared off the bow! They didn’t stick around, offering us only a glimpse as they passed by and disappeared.

What a way to start our expedition, with stunning weather and so much wildlife! Truly a remarkable day!