Coordinates: 65° 05'N and 12° 35’E
Weather: Overcast with patches of blue sky
Air Temperature: +14o C (57o F)
Wind: 45 Km / hour
Pressure: 1014 Hpa
Many people dream about cruising the Norwegian Fjords at the height of summer and here we are actually living the dream! Last night, the land of the midnight sun provided us soft illumination all night, which can seem a bit strange even though this wonderful phenomenon might have been anticipated. Even better, we crossed the Antarctic Circle this afternoon but more about that a bit later on.
I started out a little early, having breakfast with guests who were still enthused about our wonderful visit to little Trondheim, Norway yesterday. Everyone was looking forward to our day at sea as we transit towards the very remote, little-visited and stunningly beautiful Lofoten Islands, which we hope to reach tomorrow morning.
As usual on days such as this, the Prince Albert II always offers a broad range of optional enrichment activities. Today’s options included computer assistance as well as a simply wonderful presentation by Christian Walter on Early Arctic Exploration. He had a great collection of well-told tales about those individuals who blazed a (cold) trail to the North. However, one of the best aspects of Christian’s material was a tremendous collection of old maps to illustrate the stories. As a cartographer, I especially appreciated all of the hard work done to find, evaluate and select just the right historical map to help tell the tale. It was simply excellent and I truly enjoyed myself.
Next up was a cooking demonstration by our Executive Chef Torsten who explained just some (but not all!) of the secrets that go into the 6-star food service offered on board the Prince Albert II. The level of work required and attention to detail is difficult to fully understand. I am continually amazed at what an outstanding job is done by the entire culinary department 24 hours/day, especially as they create superb dishes while underway on a moving ship, often in extremely remote areas of the world.
After an excellent lunch with a European couple whose son had motorcycled 7,000 to / from the North Cape of Norway last year, I spent a few hours out on deck with guests just watching the Norwegian scenery float by. We could observe a never-ending sequence of small islands, fjords with small villages and isolated homes interspersed against a mountainous background. The greenery seems to barely hang onto the mountainsides yet the low areas are well and carefully tended in this potentially challenging environment. At one point, the Captain expertly stopped the ship such that we could more closely observe an unusual geological phenomena – a natural hole in a large mountain. This is an almost unique situation and one could see daylight streaming through this natural tunnel.
The water ways also gave us the opportunity to watch a wide variety of bird life as we passed from one location to another. Among many species we saw puffins, gulls and arctic terns. However, the highlight for me was seeing several large sea eagles gliding above the waters as well as the mountain ridges. The view of these magnificent birds was enhance if one had binoculars and Chris Cutler, our on board ornithologist also brought out a spotting scope that provided an even closer look.
Our next function was one that many people had been anticipating for quite some time – the crossing of the Antarctic Circle. As expected, the Hotel Department had the outside deck all set up for Hot Mulled Wine, Hot Chocolate and other delicacies. Soon we could see a small island in the distance with something on top that could not initially be recognized. As we sailed closer, it became clear that it was a work of art surprisingly placed at this outer edge of the world to mark the Arctic Circle, a lovely globe of stainless steel hoops tilted to reflect the Earth in its orbit. The Captain had one more surprise up his sleeve as he took the opportunity to completely circle this little island so everyone not only had the chance to take photographs to mark the occasion but everyone crossed 3 times by sea!
After a Recap & Briefing by the Expedition Team, the skies continued to clear and we had an exquisite dinner in the evening but with brilliant sun streaming through the windows and illuminating the ruggedly beautiful fjords of Norway. You couldn’t ask for a much better day than this one!