Svalbard

Posts from Monday 24 September, 2007

The arctic awe, gone

By Ben // Monday 24 Sep // 23:08:20 // 1 Comment // View

Well the melodrama of yesterday has subsided.  The arctic awe has given way to the reality of the place, and of this trip.

So we’re sailing, after nightfall, and we’ve cleared site of land.  Stomachs are somewhat woozy (no proper tossing yet, but it does seem imminent with certain clammy-faced crew members).

My shift “on watch” (above deck, steering the boat, watching for ice, and setting sails when need be) is 6-8 am&pm, and I’m feeling somewhat guilty about such a choice timeslot.  My watch crew-Vicky, Brian and myself-is also top notch (although I’d likely feel that way about any grouping I’d find myself in).   And we’ve got morning and evening twilight (and sunrise and sunsets, I suppose, if the clouds break).

Interesting realizations of the trip today, that this is no little jaunt around the arctic, but rather a pretty serious endeavour.  This somewhat humbling recognition was prompted by Ko (real name, real badass) answering my question about why he came onboard for this voyage, as he’s sailed and travelled the arctic plenty in the past, but has somewhat “retired” from the life of adventure.  Now Ko is our “guide” on this trip; he’s insanely knowledgeable about the history and science of the region, and has been to Greenland four times in the past, has been all over the arctic.  He seems to have as good a take on the North Atlantic as anyone out there.  So I ask him why he comes out of “retirement” for a trip like this, and he starts talking about the “adventure” of it, and how he wants to see how a little boat like ours-which, apparently, doesn’t normally take such a trip-is going to make the trip all the way to Greenland.  It’s a trip that Ko-who has done it all-has never done, and he’s in it for the adventure.

So, yes, we’re on an adventure-not just an arctic “experience.”  750 miles at least (as the crows flies, and our route certainly won’t be so direct), which will take 5 or 6 days, depending on the wind.  Now the thought of being on this boat for 5-6 days without even a view of land has caused at least a few of us a bit of jittery nerves.  Claustrophobia, seasickness, and boredom seem to be the main concerns.  (The last seems unlikely to me, but it is really difficult to read or write in this rolling cabin, before the stomach starts to wince.  And, that said, even within a parentheses, I must close the computer.)

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Leaving Svalbard

By Shiro // Monday 24 Sep // 22:36:39 // View

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Kjerulfbreen Glacier

By Cape Farewell // Monday 24 Sep // 22:30:25 // View

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I’m starting to mix my days up already, it seems like weeks ago that I left London. We moored close to Trygghamna overnight, had breakfast and went ashore as I desperately tried to connect to the internet and send some text and images up before we head out to open sea. I’m very aware that none of us are going to be enthusiastically typing on this computer once the swell, waves and nausea kick in. Anticipation of this moment is building and hanging over us.

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We took the zodiac into shore at the foot of the Kjerulfbreen Glacier. I looked up for the first time and noticed that we were surrounded by immense, black and white sketched mountains. A ringed seal surfaced in the fjord near the base of the glacier. This area has a 75 million year history that feels tangible. Dinosaur remains have been uncovered in the  valley. You could hear rock slides in the distance as we walked over Jurassic rock beaches, crunching history with every step. We discovered fern fossils embedded in rocks and slow forming ice crystals with long fingers spreading out from pebbles in the stream on the edge of the glacier.  It’s been 18 years since Ko was last here. In those 18 years the glacier that once covered the length of the shore has retreated 4 kilometers. Pretty fast moving in glacier terms and, as Carol explained, an unusual glacier form. It’s now imploding in on itself, collapsing in the middle, it’s edges hugging the rock mountains on either side. It’s obviously dynamic, but looks frozen in time.

Back on the Noorderlicht we set our watch schedules, left the protection of Svalbard and started our journey to Greenland. I’m on the graveyard 4-6am watch (and afternoon 4-6pm). A pod of dolphins joined us just before sunset.

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Vikram & Aminatu

By gorm // Monday 24 Sep // 13:55:05 // 1 Comment // View

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Trygghamna, Svalbard

By Nick // Monday 24 Sep // 13:48:55 // View

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Filming at the foot of the glacier

By Caroline // Monday 24 Sep // 11:02:06 // View

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Ahead is an epic arctic journey

By David // Monday 24 Sep // 08:59:33 // View

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6 am Monday and the Noorderlicht is calm as we anchor with a glacier off in the distance. On a chart of 1950 this same glacier reached four miles further out to sea from our anchor point.

Our epic urban journey of planes and hotels finished last night and the joy of being truly Arctic and on our own resonated throughout us all. Downloaded Ice maps show a 20% reduction of Arctic ice this year but most of this is in the Russian Arctic basin and the Northwest Passage of Canada. Off the Eastern Greenland coast the ice has advanced south driven by a summer of northerly winds blocking, we feared, our entrance to Scoresby Sund. The arrival of Ko de Korte, our expedition guide, brought good news. Yes there is 20% ice covering the entrance of Scoresby, but it is old ice, very dense and he thinks it is navigable. So now there is no plan ‘b’, we sail this afternoon crossing the High Arctic Atlantic, chase south along the sea ice and in 5-6 days we should be able to enter our point of destination.

David Buckland.

P.S. Yesterday in Longyearbyen airport we met the returning Youth Expedition. Full of stories of adventure and life changing activity, such a glorious team on young people hungry to continue their study and work within the Climate Change arena. It was a very emotional ‘crossing of paths’ and we all applauded their success.

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