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Day 1 - July 12, 2008 - Tromso, Norway

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Co-ordinates: 69 38.95’ N  18 57.77’E

Departing for Bear Island, Norway


The sun never set last night and now it was difficult to believe it was morning. The only clue was that we were eating breakfast and drinking coffee. The so-called “midnight sun” has a strange effect on your wellbeing; at the same time you feel both tired and rested. We spent the morning exploring Tromsø. It was beautiful day, warm and sunny with few high clouds. On a day such as this it was hard to believe that in six months time the sun would be unseen and temperatures would drop well below freezing. But today was spectacular; the locals sported shorts and tee shirts.

Tromsø is not very large, and yet it is one of the largest cities in Norway. It is home to over 50,000 people. Walking around the city you see several very old, well-maintained wooden buildings. Many of us stayed in the Radisson SAS hotel and so we were able to see our ship, the Prince Albert II, awaiting us nearby. Around 1400 we left the hotel and made the short walk to the gangplank where we were greeted by the smartly clad staff members who led us up stairs to the aptly named Panorama Lounge. From this ship-wide fifth deck area we could clearly see 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 checked our passports, gave us our suite keys and took our pictures. After this, we proceeded to our suites to unpack. Soon it was 1730 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. We toasted as we passed under the Tromsø Bridge past the northern “suburbs”.

At 1830, Conrad Combrink, our Expedition Leader, called us to The Theatre for 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 tour Bear Island.

Following these important briefings, Conrad introduced our Expedition Staff. These include Esther Bruns, our Assistant Expedition Leader, and Daniil Elterman, our Staff Assistant. Soon we met the staff who had taken our pictures and given us our keys: Juan Carlos Restrepo, a geologist from Colombia; Christian Walter, an 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.

A short time later we were in The Restaurant enjoying the fine cuisine watching the sun drenched, snow-covered peaks sail by as we headed north to Bear Island, our first stop on our expedition cruise.

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