Weather: Overcast, clearing later
Air Temperature: 7°C
Tromso was hiding in the misty fjords when the Silver Explorer berthed close to the town centre. Boarding our tour bus for the morning, our guide Carl began to reveal the town’s secrets, and with that, the clouds began to lift. After driving around some of the surrounding countryside we made our way to the Botanical Gardens to view the array of alpine and tundra plants. It was surprising to see a multitude of flowering plants – I would normally have considered these parts to be too cold and harsh to support such seemingly fragile organisms. I quickly realised that these plants were far from fragile; instead they are born survivors. The leaves of many were thickly coated in fine hairs; an adaptation to prevent the dry Arctic winds from desiccating them. On this dewy morning however, they were now dotted with perfect spheres of water, recently condensed from the damp air.
We dissected the town centre on the way to the Polar Museum, a homely nest containing artefacts and reconstructions from the early years of Arctic exploration and exploitation. From there we crossed over the fjord leaving the islands momentarily behind us to reach the remainder of Tromso, the section built on the Norwegian mainland. Watching over the narrow passage of water is the Arctic Cathedral, a wedge-shaped modern construction that evokes images of the surrounding mountains amongst other things. The verdict was out on what exactly it represented. According to our guide, the architect gave a different answer over a series of interviews when asked of the symbolism of the design.
With all safely on board, the Silver Explorer set sail at 12:30, leaving civilisation behind and heading northwards through rugged islands and out to sea, bound for Bear Island and Svalbard.
It was to be a busy afternoon at sea. First, Robin West our Expedition Leader briefed the entire complement of guests on the guidelines that we all must adhere to when visiting the remote Arctic regions. Special emphasis was placed on leaving all untouched and as we found it, and to respect all animal life present as well as historical remains.
Immediately after the briefing, I joined my Expedition Team colleagues in the mudroom, where we store gumboots for those guests who did not bring their own. Gumboots are essential for the landings we do by Zodiac boat in these remote and hard to reach corners of the earth. Soon all were issued the required footwear.
A short time later we all congregated in The Panorama Lounge for Team Trivia. Kara Weller, one of our Marine Biologists hosted a quiz based upon animal facts from the world. Even as a Fisheries Biologist I was surprised by some of the answers, such as the seahorse only being able to gallop along at a speed of 1.5 metres per hour! It was safe to say that all enjoyed the remarkable nuggets of information presented.
Next up was Recap and Briefing. Robin brought the guests up to date on our plans for the next day – a planned Zodiac cruise at Bear Island – while several members of the Expedition Team made short presentations on their particular areas of expertise in relation to our recent explorations. Today these included anecdotes from encounters with wild animals, facts about the last ice age and the troubled history of the Sámi peoples of northern Scandinavia.
Ray Stranagan, our onboard Photographer and Videographer then presented a 5-minute excerpt from the film he is making of the cruise. He selected yesterday for this appetiser, and all were very much impressed, especially the footage taken from a Zodiac of the ship entering and leaving Trollfjorden.
Before dinner it was time to acknowledge all the Venetian Society members by way of a cocktail party in The Theatre. The Venetian Society is the repeaters club, those guests who have travelled more than once with Silverseas. On this particular cruise, some 76 guests are repeaters, out of total of 125 approximately, confirmation of the loyalty those guests and no doubt of the service they have received onboard both on this and other Silversea ships.
After dinner, the Expedition Team hosted “Liars Club.” This is a game whereby four members of the Team form a panel, and each member tells a story and definition of a particularly obscure word. The guests form teams and try to decide which one of the four panel members is actually telling the truth. The game never fails to produce convoluted and farcical explanations from the panel and howls of laughter from the guests. Tonight’s words were Arachabutyrophobia, Sgiomlaireached, Eccedentesiast and Chuble. I’ll leave you to imagine what they mean, sweet dreams!!!