It’s the first full day of my expeditionary voyage of the Arctic and what an incredible day! We were told at our briefing after breakfast that there were two walruses on the beach, which was really good news as we’d been told this was probably our only chance of seeing them on the trip. We all got into all our thermal and waterproof gear, made our way to the bow, down the gangplank and into the zodiacs and were off towards the shore.
We landed a way away from them so we could approach them slowly to not scare them away. We trudged through the gravelly sand for a few minutes before seeing two big brown humps getting larger. As we got closer one of the massive humps lifted an enormous tusked head and sleepily gazed at us for a few seconds. An incredible moment; we all froze in our tracks, but he seemed to almost immediately decide we weren’t worth bothering with and put his head back down. As we crept round them we saw there was a third smaller one behind them. The three of them were companionably snuggled together having a snooze.
I sat down on a gravelly ridge about 30 feet away from them and just watched. They were so huge close up, bigger than you’d expect and so incredible to watch, even while sleeping! The bigger one did keep lifting his head and having a glance around, just to check everyone was behaving, but they really didn’t seem at all bothered that we were there, which was wonderful. The two larger ones shifted around a bit, and the largest one put his flipper around the smaller one; everyone instinctively went “awwwwwww” but even then, the noise didn’t faze them one bit. I’d forgotten since my last wildlife based trip all the reasons it’s so incredible to see animals in the wild rather than in a zoo. Seeing them in their natural habitat is so exhilarating.
As we were sat watching, the ship’s naturalist said that there were Minky whales in view from the beach back towards the ship. Everyone scanned the water until we saw a back rise and fall back down into the depths.
Back to the boat for a hot creamy mushroom soup and an afternoon nap in the warmth and then off again for a walk across the boggy tundra. We were quickly rewarded for our efforts by the sight of two gorgeous little Arctic foxes, one white and one grey. They’re so small and cute with big bushy tails and one ran right past about 3 feet in front of us, they’re not shy in the slightest! We also saw a couple of herds of reindeer, much smaller than I had envisaged and again really cute! Everything’s woolly and sweet here! It’s so amazing how close you can get to everything.
Back onboard now and about to enjoy the captain’s welcome drinks before dinner. What a fantastic first day!