Svalbard

Posts from Saturday 6 October, 2007

Goodnight, Greenland

By Ben // Saturday 6 Oct // 22:21:04 // 3 Comments // View

No choice but to mail it in today, and offer a simple chronological sequence for a last day in Greenland that was so overwhelmingly awesome on so many counts, that it couldn’t have been scripted this way in any sort of fictional narrative, for sake of believability. Here are (thin samplings of) the highlights.

2:30 – Northern Lights produce a 5-minute sequence that includes rapid flickering, up-tempo wavering, a base of green, and a touch of red.  At least two of our crew find god.

9:00 – Sunrise over mountains, magical light.

9:30 – While Dan is casting a block of glacial ice, the Zodiac is headed for shore with a film crew, and Marcus is about to be thrown in the water wearing a survival suit, three marine mammals are spotted swimming in the general direction of the boat.  After some deliberation, and much disbelief, it is confirmed that these marine mammals are not, in fact, seals, but rather a mother polar bear and her two cubs.  Video with embarrassing commentary is captured.  Incredible luck (unlikely polar bear spotting on final day) is repeatedly noted.

10:30 – As threat of predatory polar bears has passed, Marcus is thrown in icy water wearing a survival suit.  Hilarity ensues.

10:30 – Polar bear progress up nearby mountains is tracked; position relative to Beth and Ko onshore is monitored.

13:00 – Lunch

16:00 – This correspondent takes a nap for the ages.

18:00 – First watch in four days as we make our way from Greenland. Sunshine and flat seas are a welcome reintroduction.  As we later enter coastal fog I say goodbye to Greenland for second time.

18:45 – Coastal fog clears.  Say hello to Greenland again.

21:00 – Sun sets behind mountainous coast of Greenland, light reflects in iceberg filled waters through which the Noorderlicht navigates, for a good while in the wrong direction, back towards Greenland.  Ice seems inescapable.  The absolute beauty of the sunset and it’s reflection off the ice field and the light surrounding could not be more diatmetrically opposed to the reality of what this backtracking (already, merely 4 hours after “leaving” Greenland) means for our voyage across the legendarily harsh Denmark Straight (b/w Greenland and Iceland), where we’d rather not be dodging icebergs at night, and where-according to a recent weather report) very, very strong winds await.

22:00 – Polar bear prints are spotted on nearby iceberg.  Had we not seen real live polar bears earlier today, this would’ve been wildly fulfilling. As we had, it was merely “very neat.”

24:30 [next day, technically]:  Northern Lights provide encore performance. Hooting and hollering emanate from the top deck.  Phospherescents (sp?) stir in the boat’s wake.  Many cameras fail to capture them justly.

Representative quote of the day:
Carole (at sunset): What can you possibly ever do to match this?
Ben: It’d probably have to be illegal.

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Last views of Greenland

By Cape Farewell // Saturday 6 Oct // 19:55:56 // View

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Leaving Greenland

By Nick // Saturday 6 Oct // 19:55:32 // View

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Ice leaving Greenland.

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A wild ride and an adventure

By Matt // Saturday 6 Oct // 16:00:41 // 1 Comment // View

The rest of the Cape Farewell team is made up of artists, writers and scientists, all of whom are probably writing profound insights into climate change and the remarkable landscape through which we’re drifting.  I’m just here as multi-purpose teevee crew, so this will be my one and only blog for fear of coming across as a charlatan.  I’ve been editing down video for the website as we go, so consider that my record of the trip.  Textwise, here goes not much.

My walkman was 1m20s through track 12 of Polysics’ Now is the Time! as the plane landed in Svalbard, and the volume was up loud.  It is a soundtrack that would make any event more exciting, but particularly so when you’re bumping back to earth on a remote island and are about to embark on a crazy boat voyage.  Try it yourself.  Got on the boat and it was small but beautiful.  We sailed a bit, parked up (they call it “anchoring” out here) ate, slept, walked on a glacier, set sail again.

The events of a week-and-a-bit at sea can easily be condensed into a paragraph; you fall over a lot, you eat great food, you take your turn to steer the boat, you go to bed.  Lots of shooting, editing and drinking, but one gets that in Chiswick.  Unbelievably cool, but with a healthy dose of hardship.  I never felt frightened, though apparently this was through ignorance rather than bravery.  The ship’s crew seem competent, so I feel very trusting towards them.  Renske sure is one capable chick.  There has been only the one vomiting for me, which we have on tape, and only the one significant bout of madness, which is already on the web (Dire Straits is traditional journey music in our family).  Of course there is plenty more to tell about the experience.  Friends and family will hear it from me, but the rest of the world will get a better commentary by reading someone else’s posts. We have some great minds on board.  I shall sum it up as a wild ride and an adventure and, at times, cold and claustrophobic.

Finally hitting dry land was a bit of a high.  It felt liberating to take a walk and stretch ones legs.  Moving without falling, luxurious.  We saw the tracks of an arctic fox and the remains of a bird that had been consumed by an arctic fox.  The euphoria among the group was evident in and, indeed, amplified by the frenzied hitting of the bar.  Cognac served over glacial ice is delicious.  Late that night I took seizure of the satellite phone for a bit of “Dude, I’m in the Arctic” and “Mum, I love you”.  The Northern Lights were above us, and after being informed that Hounslow had cancelled my parking fine I went to bed a very happy man.

A few hours later I was woken by English swearwords, shouted in a Dutch accent.  The pump that clears the waste water had been running in reverse. The captain was standing in the doorway of our cabin, which was a couple of inches deep in salty sewage.  For fear of having it fall off a high shelf, I had opted to stow my camcorder bag at floor level.  About four thousand pounds worth of my personal equipment had been ruined in the least dignified way possible.  My mood crashed.  And then I realised I had a hangover. There was incredible sweetness as Simon and Carole took pains to disassemble the camera and swab it with water and alcohol.  As marine scientists, taking apart unfamiliar equipment suffering from saltwater damage is a secondary skill they have developed over the years.  But it still wouldn’t switch on. That morning was a real kick in the balls for me, but we were in Greenland so I still had to chalk it up as a good day.

As I finish this piece of text, we are sailing away from Greenland.  I think we were there for three days.  It was stunning – look at everyone’s pictures.  I have recordings of Liam play guitar in extreme environments; he’s really good and everyone should buy his records.  Artists have created some stunning work, and we have the processes on videotape.  The Northern Lights last night were truly amazing.  We saw three polar bears today.  I rank these days as highly as any of the other great moments in my life.  And when I tried to fire up my camera this morning, it was alive enough to at least tell me it was water-damaged.  Rock on.

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Polar bears

By Matt // Saturday 6 Oct // 11:35:50 // View

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Just before we up anchor to leave Greenland, and Marcus enters the water in a survival suit, three polar bears are spotted swimming towards us. (Duration: 1:03mins)

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Polar Bears

By Carol // Saturday 6 Oct // 11:35:36 // 2 Comments // View

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Last steps on solid Greenland

By Cape Farewell // Saturday 6 Oct // 10:45:58 // View

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Frantic activity and weather systems

By David // Saturday 6 Oct // 10:05:09 // 2 Comments // View

These Greenland days have been full of frantic activity and weather systems. Yesterday woke up to us easing our way through pack ice, grey morning and a perfect half-light for my projections onto the ice surface of a walking, naked, pregnant woman. She walked on ice at the speed of the ice moving past, a hypnotic illusion broken in a cubist fashion by the ice blocks and sea ice. This was followed by the projections of a moving baby that just struggled for existence with the breaking dawn. All wonderful.

We had to force our way out as new ice arrived from the sea into Barclay Sund – it felt quite desperate for a while as we pushed ice flows half the size of the boat out of the way. We headed south to a less ice strewn Sund, a following northerly that rocked and rolled and after four hours we could ease our way in to calm and a shore landing. Both Aminatou and Liam had prepared new music so the afternoon was spent recording two videos from the snow landscape overlooking the most awesome landscape and Hollywood lighting. Liam’s song he had only just finished writing, great music and it looks great in the camera, we should be able to put it on the web next week. We are having trouble sending his last song, 12mb via satellite is not easy this far north. We try again this morning.

The evening was spent projecting texts by myself and Ami onto an Ice Berg, which was the most beautiful one we have found yet. Magic. Finally we motored to our haven of rest for the night only to witness the most amazing northern light display that went on all night. The fiord was also freezing but this morning we are thankful not locked in ice. All that not bad for one day, everyone exhausted and elated.

Today a morning of activity before we head out to sea and head for Iceland across the Denmark Straight. 40 mile an hour winds from the North – easy!

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