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Day 1 - June 30, 2008 - Tromso, Norway

By Tony Huntley

Departing for Storstappen Islands

It was a sunny and warm day in Tromsø. It was so beautiful that we doubted the stories the locals told of cold, wet summer days. How could that be? Today was spectacular. And there at the dock next to the Radisson SAS hotel waited our ship the Prince Albert II. Around 1300 we left the hotel and made the short walk to the gangplank where we were greeted by the smartly clad staff who led us up stairs to the aptly named Panorama Lounge. From this ship-wide fifth deck area we could clearly why Norway was called the land of fjords. The glacier-cut, ocean-filled valleys had peaks that soared majestically into the sky.

In the Panorama Lounge we were offered champagne and a cold buffet while the Expedition Staff took our passports gave us our suite keys and took our pictures. After this, we proceeded to our suites to unpack. Soon Conrad Combrink, our Expedition Leader, called us to The Theatre for a safety and lifeboat drill. Following this, we got a briefing on safety in the Zodiacs. These inflatable rubber boats are very versatile and will allow us access to places that large ships cannot go. However, it is very important to understand the proper way to enter and exit these vessels. Tomorrow we will put our new knowledge to good use when we land at the Storstappen Islands.

Following these important briefings, Conrad introduced our Expedition Staff, which includes Esther Burns, our Assistant Expedition Leader; Jarda Versloot, our second Assistant Expedition Leader; and Daniil Elterman, our Staff Assistant. Soon we met the staff who had taken our pictures and given us our keys: Stefan Kredel, a geologist from Germany, now living in Argentina; Christian Walter, and anthropologist from Easter Island; Dr. Brent Stephenson, an ornithologist from New Zealand; Dr. Claudia Holgate, an environmental scientist from South Africa; Dr. Tony Huntley, a marine biologist from California; and Chris Srigley, a general naturalist from Canada.

Soon it was 1900, and the Prince Albert II left the Tromsø dock heading north in search of exciting animals and plants, mountains and fjords, and vast ice-covered vistas. Many of us stood out on the decks to watch our departure. A short time later, we were in The Restaurant enjoying the fine cuisine as the sun-drenched, snow-covered peaks sailed by.

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