Written and posted on 11/19/18.
This afternoon we were off and away on our first zodiac cruise.
I love zodiac rides. Being out on the open water, racing over the surface, wind in our faces, getting up close to our surroundings - everything about my zodiac experiences was surreal and exciting.
I was in the second zodiac group, so I had time to take in the diversity of the landscape before us.
Up Close and Personal with the Water and the Ice
It was exhilarating. Mesmerizing. Fresh and not too cold. Almost quiet.
Up Close and Personal with the Wildlife
Reindeer and foxes
And one bearded seal
I fell in love with this seal. He was just as curious as we were. To be so close was thrilling!
Finally, the Daily Expedition Report
Our on-ship liaison, Edward, asked my travel mate and me to write today's Daily Expedition Report. You can see the post here.
Here's the text, too:
Today was our first full day aboard the National Geographic Explorer and the Arctic did not disappoint. Clear skies were present in the early hours of the morning and several guests made their way to the deck to preview the day; others stayed cozy in their cabins awaiting expedition leader Brent’s 07:15 wake-up call.
After breakfast, we headed for the lounge, where we had that opportunity to meet the expedition team and get acquainted with how to proceed up in the Arctic. Immediately afterwards, we went down to the mudroom to have our outer layers and rucksacks decontaminated to minimize the introduction of invasive species to these environments.
Before lunch, we sailed into Krossfjorden, stopping at the base of the majestic Lilliehöökbreen Glacier where we spotted a juvenile walrus perched on a small iceberg as well as several seals. Not wanting to frighten the
During lunch, the ship sailed east into 14th of July Bay, and after enjoying lunch and each other’s company, we headed out on our first expeditions. A few headed out for a medium-length or longer hike to view the entire landscape while most guests opted for a Zodiac tour of the fjord. Over the hour, we were treated to many wildlife sightings, including a mischievous arctic fox chasing barnacle geese and a small herd of grazing reindeer. There were nesting kittiwakes on the cliffs whose calls echoed off the cliff walls, and, as we zigzagged across the bay, we spotted black guillemots and glaucous gulls resting on icebergs. King and common eider ducks took flight all around us; the males’ colorful heads stood out against the blue and white glacier and the water. A highlight of the expedition was a close encounter with a bearded seal posing on sea ice. We continued onward toward the mouth of the bay, where Brünnich’s guillemots and Atlantic puffins could be seen at their nesting sites on the cliffsides. Above the cliffs, barnacle and pink-footed geese grazed on the plants. In a couple of places, we saw some spots of purple saxifrage in bloom. Another striking aspect on the towering cliffs was the bright-orange ornithocoprophyllic lichens. These lichens grow close to bird cliffs and benefit from the particles of airborne bird guano, which is why they’re called birdpooplovinglichens.
After dinner we entered Smeerenburgfjorden, an area with a rich history dating back centuries. Whalers and hunters were the first to come here, followed by adventurers trying to reach the North Pole with hot air balloons. Overnight we will sail across the top of the archipelago and cross 80˚N for the first time. Due to decreased sea ice, it’s possible to cross this line of latitudinal significance very early in the season. Tomorrow morning, we’ll awaken to the sights of the Hinlopen Strait. We went to bed glad to get a few hours rest in bright daylight.
As a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, I traveled to Svalbard in May 2018! Thanks to Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic for supporting teachers and encouraging us to be explorers.
Some of the text shared here was written in my journal or through social media posts while I was on expedition.
But much of the writing shared here was written in the months following my return home.
I had this idea that I would embark on my journey and, in real time, reflect and write and create blog posts and videos and online albums and photo books and postcards. I had fantasies of sitting in the ship's library with my pen and notebook, collecting and composing what I'd seen and experienced and manifesting deep, profound thoughts.
Yeah. That didn't happen.
My experience was so intense, so surreal, that I had difficulty finding adequate words to describe it all. Silly, inconsequential, and unsatisfying words were all I had - great, amazing, unbelievable, incredible. At the end of each day I would try. After dinner, somewhere between 10pm and midnight, I'd make my way up to the library to write. But I would get distracted. The large, glorious, gorgeous windows were too inviting and each moment was unique. The clouds were shifting, the water was moving, the ship was in motion, the ice upon the water was drifting. Each and every moment was unique.
My eyes were up and wide open. I was outside on the deck feeling the cold air and the lightly falling snow on my face. Or I was sitting on the bridge, snuggled in warmth, with a pair of binoculars looking looking looking. Oh, I tried to shift my thinking to writing something more than a bulleted list, but I just couldn't pull it off.
To put it simply, I couldn't focus.
I coined my condition Wonder-Induced ADD.
It is a beautiful affliction to have.
This blog is dedicated to my aunt, Tina Chavez, who is always my biggest fan and supporter. When I told her about my expedition to the Arctic, she asked, "So, when do you go on the Polar Bear Express?"
She also told me to run fast from the polar bears, but naming this blog "Run, Jen, Run!" isn't as charming as calling it "The Polar Bear Express."