Today at around 1400 hours we started to enter substantial ice. I checked the GPS and we were a bit above 70 degrees north latitude. Floes now fill the landscape (seascape?) as far as the eye can see.

It's overcast but not at all foggy so we are going along at eight knots, a decent clip, weaving in and out of ice floes and occasionally bashing into one with a big thud that shakes the ship.

The energy on board - already high - has been cranked up a few notches by the ice. Everyone's wearing a grin and folks are circulating from the bridge to the bow, checking out the ice floes. We've seen some auks and some seals, and one seal entertained us by popping up about 10 meters in front of the bow, then swimming along the starboard rail and keeping up with us for a while before drifting along the side of the ship and diving, showing off with a splash of its tail.

This is Isha's first time above the Arctic circle, in sea ice, and seeing whales and seals. She is positively awestruck and describes feeling "numb with delight." That kind of excitement doesn't wane, at least not for me, and this is my fifth trip on this ship in Arctic waters. I feel the same kind of excitement and awe that she does.

Arne, the Captain, told me earlier today that he thought we would enter the ice at some point soon. He's got so much experience at the poles, I swear, it's as if he can smell the ice as we approach.

There were other signs that the ship was heading farther and farther north above the Arctic Circle. Everyone was issued cold weather gear from the ship's stores. Hot chocolate appeared in the mess. And the reading material posted in each toilet was switched from a briefing on heat stroke to hypothermia (if you want to make sure something is read, then post it in the toilet!).

We are still on the look-out for our first iceberg, and there is talk of starting another contest to predict the first polar bear sighting.

- Melanie