“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” Our expedition leader Mike included this quote in the daily program, and it certainly set the tone for our first truly exploratory day.

There was little doubt that we had left the greenery of the Norwegian fjords behind and reached the Arctic as we woke up to crisp morning air and views of sea ice. The corners of the decks still harbored bits of snow from last night.

The day started with a captivating talk about kelp research from naturalist Taylor as our ship made her way through the icy seas. The whole day was dedicated to exploring sea ice, and it certainly paid off. Some of us were not able to finish our dessert after we spotted our first polar bear of the trip. Not long after, Serguei’s afternoon lecture about ice was interrupted by a second bear sighting.

After a while, we started spotting small icebergs frozen throughout the fields of sea ice, indicating that we were getting closer to Austfonna, Svalbard’s largest ice field. Views of its spectacular front followed us throughout the evening hours.