Posts from Ben Jervey

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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A Glossary of Terms

By Ben // Friday 5 Oct // 23:21:26 // View

Another day of arctic adventuring, and another day I just don’t have the wherewithal to effectively discuss. Yet.

So rather than burden you with an overly emotional attempt at restructured narrative (abbreviated highlights: morning in thick ice field; climb to crow’s nest; walk along coastline in Barclay Bay, where quite possibly no human has ever tread before; drinking cocktails poured over glacial ice; Vikram swimming in -1-degree Celcius water; the best photograph I’ve ever taken in my life (on somebody else’s camera); projections onto icebergs at night), for our American audience I’ll offer a basic glossary of British dialect common on the ship, and possibly causing minor confusion to the Stateside readership.  [Note: this list might be heavy on the Manchester euphemism, as my cabin-mate Liam has plied me with Mancunian talk.]

knackered:  tired
shattered: see above
throw a wobbly: to get mad
Mum: mom
slag: [retracted]
borf : [retracted]
chunder: to vomit
make sick: see above
bollocks: exclamation of frustration; or [retracted]
brew:  tea; or, a beverage (quite possibly life-sustaining), served hot every 40 minutes or so
slash: to use the toilet, #1
[retracted]:  [retracted]
nick: to steal

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Rest, respite and precarious navigation

By Ben // Thursday 4 Oct // 21:24:07 // View

A foggy, at times rainy, day, that served largely as one of rest and respite, but one punctuated by a precarious navigation through a field thick of ice-chunks as big as double-decker busses, some-and close enough to a massive glacier’s face to see it even through thick fog.  Here, like nowhere so far on this trip, you could feel Greenland’s loss of ice.  I’ll be careful here not to imply that this is (necessarily) a volume of ice loss accelerated by global warming, but rather simply an enormous amount of ice that gives a rather startling impression of just how massive these glaciers are, how much ice they hold, and how much they dump into the sea.

By the way, we’re settled now in Barclay Bugt.  Which translates to Barclay Bay.  The last recorded voyage into the bays along this coast (according to the ship’s pilot, a guide-ish book of sorts that breaks down a bunch of info from past voyages to various areas) was 50 years back (of course, our pilot is a bit outdated as well, having been published in 1981).

Representative quote of the day:
“It’s always Christmas in the arctic.”  –Liam, with wintry wonder.

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The Snap Freeze

By Ben // Wednesday 3 Oct // 20:25:01 // 2 Comments // View


Before delving into today’s installment of Something Spectacular That Is Probably Impossible To Experience Anywhere Else, I should probably mention that we didn’t wind up in Scoresby Sund.  Rather we’re settled into the coast just south, Blosseville Kyst, fjord hopping our way down.  Having spent the first night in Deichmann fjord, we swung around the point to Turner Sound, tucked behind Turner Island.  Here we experienced the aforementioned S.S.T.I.P.I.T.E.A.E.

Which was:  a snap freeze.  Now I’ll implore you to check out the posts from the Science Team for a much better description of exactly what this is.  But here’s how I experienced it:  the boat circled through a spot in the Sound where thin, wispy crystals of ice were barely scattering the surface.  After completing a loop, Beth (thankfully) asked for a second pass, during which the Noorderlicht was breaking through ice probably 2 inches thick, where just 15-20 minutes earlier it had been nearly pure liquid.  Simon guessed that by morning it’d be about 3-4 feet thick.

And that’s why we’ve got to pay attention to where we park.

I think there’s some video I took floating somewhere on the site as well of the freeze, and the Science Team’s reaction.  Check it.

Representative quote of the day:
“Noorderlicht, the icebreaker!”  –Renska, digging the snap freeze.
“Not in 35 or 40 years in the field have I seen it.”  –Simon, also digging the snap freeze.

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Quick freeze

By Ben // Wednesday 3 Oct // 16:40:17 // View

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Quick freezing sea ice in Turner Sound. (Duration: 1:18mins)

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


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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By Ben // Tuesday 2 Oct // 07:49:36 // 1 Comment // View


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Tale of two seas

By Ben // Monday 1 Oct // 22:05:07 // 3 Comments // View

Woke up to the sweet surprise of perfectly placid seas. (And the good news that we’d escaped the Ring of Ice and were back on course.) Ended the day thrown into the harshest watch yet, a shift featuring winds strong enough to force Gert (our fearless (in a very true sense) captain; pronounced “Hurt”; more to follow someday) to clamber up the bowsprit to pull down the sails
(which, for obvious reasons, is a lot tougher to do in Force 8 winds). I’d offer more, but I want to give my Mom a break from the imagery. Thankfully mellow day turned frightfully tough.

By the way-anyone who has tried to email me for whatever reason (Jenn w/r/t SooF, Team Evolvist, etc), we don’t have any internet access, so the best way of getting in touch is to either leave a comment in this blog. (As comments are then forwarded along to us via Satellite phone from the Cape Farewell office, our only tiny keyhole into the world outside the
Noorderlicht.) Red Sox updates are keenly encouraged.

Representative quotes of the day:

“For all the hearts I’ve broken and [retracted] I’ve [retracted], I did nothing to deserve that.” –Matt, coming in from the 8-10pm watch, which featuring sustained Force 8 winds with periods of Force 9, horizontally blown icy sleety mixture, and salt-spraying waves that left faces numb and (on the plus side) nicely exfoliated.

“Your t-shirt says ‘A bad day on the boat is better than a good day in the office’.Today, I don’t know about that.” –Captain Gert, on a hellfire Monday evening.

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