Svalbard

Posts from Tuesday 2 October, 2007

Arrival

By Ben // Tuesday 2 Oct // 23:05:49 // 3 Comments // View

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Representative quote of the day (which today will lead the post, as it’s the most welcome quote of the trip):

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have Greenland.” –Barbara, at 6:15am (Norweigan time), to Vicky and Ben, who then behaved a bit silly for that time of night.

We’ve arrived. Greenland, first appearing through the early twilight, rising from the horizon and looking a little too ambiguous (cloudlike, thin, atmospheric, imagined) to get hopes immediately up . (Mental process: “Could that be? No.too big, too white, must be a cloud.Looks a damn lot like mountains.Should I ask Barbara? Don’t want to sound dumb. Looks a lot like
land. Can’t be, no way, mind playing tricks. Big clouds that look just like mountains. That must be it. Yeah, that’s it. But damn that looks like land. Don’t be dumb.” And so on.)

Eight days across the Greenland Sea, sixteen watches up topside, twenty-four meals served at varying angled degrees from the horizontal, a bundle of bad nights’ sleep, plenty a sing-a-long, many a turbulent tummy, and altogether too may slips, falls, and bruises.

And every ache and pain, each sleepless night and every breakfast lost has been completely worth it. At risk of seeming like I’m mailing it in, I can’t offer much by way of words about this place. Not yet. There’s too much: too big, too emotional, too abstract, too pristine, too majestic.

Suffice to say, spirits are lifted, and we lifted many a spirit in celebration (and relief), after a long day of general arctic (land)-induced merriment: circling floating cathedrals of ice recently calved from nearby glaciers; touching down on land for an (at first wobbly) walk up and along a coastal ridge, the elevation giving a bit of perspective to the fjord; some snow fights; and, yes, to top it off, a late night gift of the Northern Lights. All is very, very good.

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First Greenland Walk

By Amy // Tuesday 2 Oct // 17:41:57 // 2 Comments // View

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Climate research with Marcus and Liam

By Marcus // Tuesday 2 Oct // 15:22:40 // 3 Comments // View

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Address climate change now or face horrors like this every day of your life.

(Photos:Carol Cotterill)

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Filming Anthem

By Beth // Tuesday 2 Oct // 13:17:47 // View

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Mythical Land of Greenland

By Simon // Tuesday 2 Oct // 10:00:17 // 8 Comments // View

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To an oceanographer the past eight days has just been – well – work. High seas, cold and wet, but lots of good science – and another step towards beginning to understand the vast marine environment. But to the many assembled artists and film makers the nirvana of our voyage was the increasingly mythical land of Greenland. It became clear why Greenland – which must be the size of Britain, France, Spain and probably a few smaller EU countries for god measure – has a population of 50,000 people; they were the only ones who could get to it. Finding a gap in the fields of sea ice and errant ice bergs was more frustrating than finding a parking space the Saturday before Christmas. This was a close analogy as for some bizarre reason Monday lunchtime felt like Christmas Day – I’m not sure if it was the snow billowing around the deck outside, the strangely promising grey light that always seems to accompany the festivities, or the warm smell of cooking – promising and comforting. If some uncle or group of nieces were to walk through the door laden with presents, expectant of sweet sherry or gifts in return, we’d have raised a glass rather than suprise. White Christmas played in the background (really!) and only the Queen’s Speech was missing.

However this was the first of October and while stores around the world will soon be preparing for their Christmas sales, even my mother won’t have put the sprouts on yet – not at least for another 3 weeks. The Christmas idiom was soon shattered – the winds picked up and the reality that Greenland – 20 miles to our west – may as well have been that free parking space in front of Harrods. By late afternoon the St. Nicholas euphoria transformed to a battle against Neptune. Any attempt to control the Noorderlicht was hindered by ropes and pulleys now embedded in blocks of ice, nice in that Christmas Gin, not good in the Greenland Sea. Within 2 hours the ship was heeling at 30 degrees (no sails up) as force 8 winds blew her sideways. At least the sea water breaking over the booms thawed the ropes – but I could think of better ways. As darkness fell the waters became more sinister and the ice around us ever more menacing.

In spite of all this spirits rose, whether through a combined battle on our environment or just admission that Greenland really was mythical and we might soon be heading to Iceland instead is hard to tell. Liam quite literally broke the ice by appearing like some Austin Power’s character – resplendent in his olive green thermals and ski goggles (nothing else) – ready to take on Neptune. I guess as Neptune was picking himself up from rolling around the floor of the sea bed Liam could have pulled off a David and Goliath task . or maybe not. We worked our way through every children’s tune and musical known, with Vicky providing the tune (angelic voice) and Marcus the words (encyclopaedic memory!). At 0200 I went on watch and by this stage Gert was getting marginally p***ed off with the ice sheets (his words). We had been hove too for 8 hours holding against the wind and ice. With a flick of the throttle and a furrowing of his brows he turned the ship and headed – coastward. The small sheets of ice we’d carefully avoided for the past 3 days became like bowling pins – falling before us as we ploughed our path – with those on watch hoping it was only the paint of Noorderlicht that was suffering. As I finally crawled to my bunk at 0500 I went in the knowledge that when I woke we would either have found Greenland, or discovered that the earth was indeed flat and we had slipped off it.
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Anna, Renske and Barbara

By gorm // Tuesday 2 Oct // 09:33:11 // View

The Nooderlicht Crew

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Greenland!!!!!!!

By Carol // Tuesday 2 Oct // 09:12:24 // 2 Comments // View

It was officially the watch from hell this morning…..4 – 6am was possibly the coldest I have ever been. Standing at the helm bouncing up and down as I sang jungle book songs to myself meant my feet stayed just warmer than frozen solid, but did earn a few glances from Barbara, who must have been wondering if I’d finally flipped over the proverbial edge into insanity. We caustiously broke through an ice floe, to be met by another and then a third! Trying to spot the low lying lurking ice was hard, when all you could think of was the nice warm bunk you’d left at 3.40am.

But then 10 minutes after the end of my watch there was a shout that land had been spotted. We’d all been wondering if A) Greenland really existed and B) if we’d ever be allowed to see it by the ever omnipresent ice. It was early early dawn with just a faint blush on the horizon delineating sea from sky, and the land looked like mystical clouds and cliffs floating over the cold grey sea surface. There was no hint then that the constant grey clouds that had acompanied us across the now legendary sea journey would ever lift.

But when I stumbled out of my bunk at about 8am there was a glorious sunrise brewing, casting warm shades of pinks and oranges over the most spectacular scenery I think I have ever seen. We were moored in a fjord, with two huge icebergs floating regally close by. I have never seen such an accumulation of photographers, cameras and film makers along the port side of any boat……I wonder what such a group would be called……maybe a floe would be appropriate.
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Greenland!

By Emily // Tuesday 2 Oct // 09:05:50 // 2 Comments // View

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The last 24 hours now seem like a distant memory. Yesterday lunch time we were listening to Christmas carols as the snow fell outside. Last night we were heeling over in the middle of a force 9 under only bare poles, taking it in turns to hang on for dear life whilst watching out for icebergs. Between 2 and 4 the sky began to clear, and we even had a glimpse of a northern light as we weaved our way through endless bands of ice.

This morning, I have spent a good few hours totally mesmerised by our setting. Since first light when the moon and Venus were stunningly bright, we have watched the sun rise from the mouth of an idyllic fjord, not a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky. We then did a couple of circumnavigations of a breathtakingly sculpted iceberg, which, in my scientific wisdom, I think looks just like a Mr Whippy!

On that note, I can’t stay inside any longer, having rested and emptied my camera, and topped up my coffee levels, I’m off to take in some more of this awesome scenery.

It’s great to get your messages, I wouldn’t have wished the last eight days upon anybody, but now I really do wish you could see this!

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