Arctic Cruise Report: Denmark Strait

From the National Geographic Explorer, Sunday, May 23, 2010

No need for a wake-up call this morning. Bumps and shudders at 330am signaled our arrival at the edge of the pack-ice in seas between Iceland and Greenland. The National Geographic Explorer is nothing if not an expedition ship par excellence and our Expedition Leader had announced to great acclaim that we would depart from the published schedule and go into expedition mode for today and head out to explore the ice. 

Well before breakfast, therefore, the bridge and open decks were lively with excited and curious guests, equipped with binoculars and cameras. While the eerie early morning fog slowly lifted- fog banks being characteristic of these convergent waters, noted by travelers from early mediaeval times onwards – we were treated to an entertaining and informative lecture on the many different kinds of ice by our on-board oceanographer, Dr. Jim Kelley. Having learned that we were sailing through one-year sea ice, we noticed that by 1000am visibility had much improved and wildlife sightings consequently increased: we approached two solitary seals lounging on ice-floes, another great photo opportunity. They were identified as a hooded and a bearded seal respectively. By 1130am conditions had improved sufficiently for a Zodiac cruise through the ice to be offered, a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was seized eagerly. Earlier we had learned how the cold east Greenland current, passing through the Denmark Strait, carries the ice south into the North Atlantic.

After lunch, we followed the current southward with the south-western extremities of Iceland back in view to port. A busy afternoon (for those who chose to be busy) provided an opportunity for the photographers to meet to prepare for their joint end of voyage presentation, a matinee showing of two films on the volcanic eruptions and disruptions that devastated the peaceful lives of the Westmann islanders in the middle of the last century – the object of our explorations on the final day of the voyage – and an introduction to the lore of Icelandic trolls and elves from Ragnar Hauksson.

Interested in this itinerary? View this and other Arctic cruise itineraries on our website…


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