Svalbard

Posts from September, 2007

Ink Movement Drawings

By Dan // Sunday 30 Sep // 22:12:11 // View

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I experimented with various ways of recording our journey from Svalbard to Greenland and then down to Iceland. Eroding plaster blocks suspended behind the ship. Burning card with a large lens, which tracked the ships movement in relation to the sun. Allowing an ink covered ball to roll over paper soaked in seawater in the rough seas. The latter transforming with the use of luminous paint on black card while the Northern Lights shifted and flowed overhead – not forgetting the luminescent plankton glowing in the dark water disturbed by the prow of the ship.

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Creating Ink Movement Drawings

By Dan // Sunday 30 Sep // 22:00:19 // 4 Comments // View

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(Not so) Great ways to start the day

By Ben // Sunday 30 Sep // 22:00:00 // 7 Comments // View

[Note to Mom: Don’t read this one.]

There are great ways to start the day (think: a hot cup of tea, the newspaper, a bicycle ride, SportsCenter, the face of a loved one) and then there’s standing harnessed to the bow of a lurching 100-year old schooner at 6am (which is more accurately about 3 or 4am since we’ve maintained the same “ship time” while crossing at least two time zones), peering through the pre-twilight dark and horizontally wind-driven ice, trying to distinguish potentially threatening icebergs (smaller than an oven: not dangerous; bigger than a refrigerator, definitely so; anything in between: your guess is as good as mine) from the white foamy churn of waves piling over themselves, and then seeing a massive gleaming mass roll over a swell at the limit of visibility, a glowing white chunk unmistakable for anything but a hulking solid state of H2O, and realizing with startling urgency—“shit, this is what I’m here for”—immediately turning with flailing arms and yelling at lungs’ top “BIG PIECE OF ICE” repeatedly so that Barbara (of the Noorderlicht crew, now helming the wheel through this tenuous stretch) will hear, apparently yelling loud enough to awaken a sleeping Vikram in his cabin below, and then watching with a certain helpless angst as the boat laboriously banks against its 8 knots of momentum and Force 6 tailwinds to port, and the broad, jagged white mass pushes closer, on a seemingly target-tracked course to the bow, before finally, after the slowest of seconds, the Noorderlicht pulls left, not sharply, but enough to let this iceberg—now obvious to be the size of a 15-passenger van, or maybe even a box truck—glide harmlessly off of starboard, an innocent chunk bobbing along, perhaps beautiful and awesomely intricate in another setting.
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So near and yet so far…

By Emily // Sunday 30 Sep // 21:35:57 // View

Well, the 2-4 am watch this morning was particularly horrible. It was quite windy – we were travelling downwind at 8 knots flying only the jib (small foresail) as the snow froze to our backs. A water profile was out of the question; in fact Simon was informed in no uncertain terms that if he even dared ask for the boat to be stopped, the skipper would be sending him overboard with the instrument!

Even so, when I turned in for a few hours sleep, we were still under the impression that later this morning, we would be in the shelter of the coast. Unfortunately we are now heading north of northeast, 020?. Yes, you’ve got it; we are indeed heading back in the direction of Spitsbergen.

As you already know, the ice has come further south this year than usual, and is still covering the entrance to Scoresby Sund, our proposed destination. We were planning, therefore, to follow to ice edge south to the nearest accessible fjord. The problem is that the ice has also spread east, blocking our path southwards. Strong southwesterly winds that we have been experiencing recently are likely to be the explanation for this.

So, all that we can do for the moment is keep the ice on the right and hope that some time soon we get to Greenland. Music is keeping the spirits up for now, but we really do need to find land soon.
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Chunk

By Ben // Saturday 29 Sep // 23:55:57 // View

The morning watch brought a welcome sight—ice. After five days of unbroken sea in all directions, a gleaming white horizon gave great joy, and yielded some early morning high fives. The spotting occurred squarely between the 6-8 and 8-10 watches, allowing for shared elation and many a slaphappy call of “chunk!” as actual bits of sea ice floated unassumingly aside the boat.

Here a touch of science is called for: the ice we’re seeing is “old,” probably formed two or three years ago up in the polar icecap. It’s then driven down the northeast coast of Greenland by northerly winds and the East Greenland Current, and generally (for the past few years at least) it breaks up somewhere in the neighborhood of Scoresby Sund. Which is where we’re heading. So the plan from here is to follow the ice south to Scoresby Sund, or wherever it’s loose enough (meaning about 10-percent ice cover) and make for the coast.

The blocks of floating ice are somehow captivating. It’s possible that this is because we’ve seen nothing but sea for five days, but I think there’s more to it. The history of this ice, formed years before up towards the pole, carries through it, and the pieces we see have broken from the main flow, weathered and shaped by warmer (it’s all relative) water, wearing their years of frigid floating. In these bits of ice we can feel the last gasp of the solid state.

[Note: I’d started and put on hold this post sometime midday Saturday. As I revisit it Sunday evening, and after spending more time with the ice all day Saturday, we’re feeling a bit different about ice. See subsequent post.]

Representative quote of the day: “It’s like someone has taken the most boring soup in the world, and added croutons.” –Marcus, on ice in the sea.

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Iceberg watch

By Cape Farewell // Saturday 29 Sep // 23:55:20 // View

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The first sighting of ice

By Emily // Saturday 29 Sep // 20:45:06 // View

This morning started with much excitement at the first sighting of ice – at 8.30am everyone was up and taking pictures. It did wonders for the morale on board. The saloon which had been full of soggy gear and sleeping bodies since Sunday became a dance floor. There was much jumping around to ‘Ice Ice baby’ and other cheesy goodness! It is impossible to describe the difference between this and the seemingly endless days of almost everyone on board feeling very ill.

Many a time throughout the voyage so far, I’ve really had to stop and remind myself that we really are sailing (albeit with an occasional helping hand from the engine) across an incredibly remote and very important piece of sea. The Fram Strait, between Spitsbergen and Greenland is the only deep water connection between the entire Arctic Ocean and any of the rest of the global oceans. For this reason, changes in the currents here are strong indicators of change in both the Arctic environment and the large scale circulation of the oceans. Click to read the full post >

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Noorderlicht (on deck)

By Shiro // Saturday 29 Sep // 14:46:42 // View

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