Svalbard

Posts from Crew blogs

Hot springs

By Carol // Tuesday 9 Oct // 13:03:50 // 2 Comments // View

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Soaking weary bones and nursing our bruises at the hot springs near Akureyri, enroute to Reykjavik.

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Iceland

By David // Monday 8 Oct // 19:55:30 // View

A calm night entrance to Northern Iceland, my last ‘watch’ ended at 6am – a mixture of sadness (voyaging is addictive) and relief that yet again we have all travelled safely. It always feels like a ‘Shakleton’ moment, all accounted for and no damage to life and limb. This expedition will go down in Cape Farewell folk law as the extreme one – the longest sea passage, the hardest physically on all of us, the most violent weather and that dance with ice and more ice. Yesterday Greenland really didn’t want to let us go as we did one of our famous nautical circles to find a way through an endless band of icebergs and sea ice offshore. Eventually we hugged the coast and literally pushed blocks of ice the size of busses out of our way to emerge to seaward just as the night closed in.

Greenland has given us the extreme beauty to match the extreme hardship, days of unimaginable senses which  have beguiled each of us. For me, the overall impression left from this expedition is a sense of awesome power; the power to shift a warm undersea river of water north that would take 100,000 nuclear power stations to generate, the power of wind and sea forces, the power of ice, how it shapes, melts and threatens. There is no human repost for this scale of activity, we have only just managed to witness and survive. We now know without doubt that our human activity and waste in the form of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is destabilising the status quo of the planetary systems – we are blindly stirring a hornets nest with our self obsession and greed and it is getting angry.

Here in the Arctic the temperatures are up 6 degrees Centigrade, weather patterns worldwide are destabilised: witness the floods in the UK, more violent hurricanes, drought in parts of the USA and Australia and recently a solid month of rainfall fell south of the Sahara from Ethiopia to Senegal. Each event on it’s own can be explained as a freak event but this is a pattern of events predicted as a consequence of our heating planet. The changes of climate will increase and become more unstable. If we have learnt anything on this expedition it is that the forces that will be released against us will not be manageable.

And then the magic rides in. We have not seen another human or even a trace of human endeavour for 17 days, we have been beyond any safety net, we have depended on our own resources and have engaged and become overwhelmed by the shear magic of bears, ice, light, emotions and our own shared company. Not totally true – we did manage to get close enough to civilisation to get Brian picked up by helicopter, satellites have fed us with information of position and weather and we have communicated using high tech devices. Escaping is not a desire but I am motivated to try to retain what we stand to lose. Small adjustments to our expectations of what defines our individual lives could achieve new technologies and ways of living that are sustainable.

Somehow embracing this change seems more fun and fulfilling than the status quo of more need, more aggression, more tension. I am doing what we all have agreed is futile – preaching. During this expedition we have all been inspired artistically, new works are in embryonic form and now we need to refine them, get them out into the public domain and hopefully engage, illuminate and inspire.
David Buckland

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A calm 4am watch

By Cape Farewell // Monday 8 Oct // 05:35:43 // View

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Lunch at an angle

By Matt // Sunday 7 Oct // 13:05:31 // 2 Comments // View

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Description: Lunch, stairs and stacks at sea. (Duration: 32secs)

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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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