Co-ordinates: 61° 50' 13² N, 65° 43' 58² W
This day had a really early start. Just after midnight, our Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink made an announcement to let us know that the Aurora Borealis was visible! I venture to say that nobody was upset about being awakened at this ungodly hour. Most people went up on deck and enjoyed, on the port side – the soft twilight of the summer arctic night, and on starboard side – the magnificent display of the Northern Lights. What a show! They were green in color and came and went slowly. The night was cold and few stayed around for longer than half an hour, but those that did were rewarded with a beautiful display on a clear night.
At about 9 am, two groups went on a Zodiac tour that was meant to go from north to south along the eastern channel that dissects the islands. Early into the tour we saw two polar bears, a mother and her cub. They were at a distance of about 80m, climbed over a hill and disappeared over the other side. Later on, a solitary bear was found nearby. He was at first up on a hill, but slowly made his way down towards the water (and towards us). A seal or two were swimming around, but he paid little attention to them. Then he went in the water and swam to a nearby beach from where he carried on.
Two more bears were spotted on that same tour, for a total of 5. Gray seals were also seen, as well as Glaucous Gulls, Black Guillemots and a few cormorants.
Considering the potential of the site and not wanting the next groups to miss the bears, Conrad decided to cut the cruise a bit short and give the people in groups 2 and 3 an opportunity to see the animals in the area. The plan to go across the island and be picked up by the ship at the south side was then aborted, (flexibility, the key to expedition cruising) and instead we returned to the ship at 11, when the remainder of the guests boarded the Zodiacs. The thick fog and cold temperatures of the first tour were giving way and the day became a bit nicer, however, the bears were no longer around.
We looked around for 2 hours with no luck in finding any bears, however seals and birds were spotted and the scenery was very nice. We returned to the ship for lunch.
Wanting to give the people in groups 2 and 3 the opportunity to have a good look at polar bears, it was decided to have another Zodiac cruise at the south side of the island, hoping for better bear luck. At 3:30 pm, we started with the first cruise and then the second. Two bears were spotted, one on each, but at quite a distance and for a short period of time, not everybody saw them. That is just the way it goes with wildlife.
Everybody was back on board by 7 pm, just in time for dinner.