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I'm posting this out of order, and also unedited and so on. The Loyal Readership has several missing days of entries coming (WALRUS LOVE ALERT!!!)(distant, worried-about-nuclear-icebreaker walruses).

These tour travel days are gruelling marathons of waiting, with sporadic deadlines. E and I left the rubber boots loaned by Quark outside the door before we went to bed (as well as hanging the "Do not disturb" sign out, something we need to do more often than not... people keep buying us drinks, and then we buy each other drinks, and then, inevitably, intense snoring follows, the kind that only a polar bear can disrupt.) Leaving is a gradual attrition, in some ways---a day or so ago we had to turn in the fluffy bathrobes and slippers---and a gradual accrual, in others, as we've been given now not only parkas (in Public Works Yellow) but a cute itty bitty ditty bag to tote stuff home in and a cute mini desk clock from the company that runs the "hotel" side of things---that's care and feeding of passengers.

We did most of our packing yesterday. My practice is to pack as much as possible the night before and then zip up the bags. Overnight, a miraculous compression occurs, and no matter how full the bag might have seemed, I can fit in the last odd articles like toothbrush and pyjamas. Neither E nor I bought stuff but the parka takes up space. In heroic packing achievement, I get down to two bags having come with three, and that's including the packed parka. My carry-on is all optics and things with plugs. When I open the duffel bag, a new universe will be born from the expansion of the matter within.

But you're not here to read about packing! Exotic locales are what this blog is about.Read more... )
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At 1:00 in the morning, another polar bear strolls past the ship. What with the landing and the fog, we haven't seen one since yesterday morning.Read more... )

Cape Norway

Jul. 2nd, 2008 10:00 pm
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At 1:00 the loudspeaker in our cabin crackles tactfully several times and then a soft ladylike voice, Susan Currie gently breaks the news that a polar bear is on the ice outside the ship, at "11:00". That means it's on the port side, and so E and I scramble out of our bunks and sit in the wide-open portholes, on the cold radiator, shivering in pajamas and sweaters as we photograph the bear.


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Following the assumed-late night last night, we're spared the expedition leader's wakeup call (and threadbare, sub-Reader's-Digest humorous quotes). A brunch is served instead of lunch.


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Southwards

Jun. 30th, 2008 10:00 pm
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Today is as unlike yesterday as can be imagined — we're traveling south, the fog has vanished, and the air is clear and dry. With the sun so bright it's painful to look out the window without sunglasses, the weather is right for helicopter sightseeing.





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I spend most of the morning outside on deck, watching our passage through the densest ice of the voyage. This has only slightly slowed down the ship's 75,000-horsepower progress to the North Pole. The ice resents the disturbance and cracks but reluctantly.

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This morning: 86 degrees, 38 seconds. The expedition leader in his morning announcement doesn't give a longitude because it doesn't matter, this far north, he says. So draw a straight line from yesterday...

The morning is bright and sunny, so the expedition staff cancel the planned activities (lecture, engine room tour, Tai Chi) and instead arrange for the passengers to go up in the helicopter to photograph the ship.



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Just in case you were wondering what the weather's like up there, the Magic of the Internet brings us webcams on a research buoy of the North Polar Environmental Observatory (NPEO) which is drifting in the ice, presently at 84.795°N 0.094°W and heading south.
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82°45' N, 52°28' E



I think my highest north last year was 81 or 82 degrees, when the Polar Pioneer went as far north as was feasible into the summer ice pack, above Svalbard.

It's misty-foggy; Fifty Years of Victory is pushing steadily through heavier ice this morning, making use of many openings, the leads between the plates. Even though the ship breaks ice easily, it's still faster to use the leads when they go in the right direction. The plates of ice are seamed with pressure ridges, some low, some high: lines of tumbled chunks of ice showing where two plates rammed together and fused, or where one plate buckled and crumpled under the force of impact with others. The ice is moved by winds and tides and currents, so it's always shifting — it's not a solid layer anywhere, although the thicker it is, the more resistant to breaking it is.

The fog shrinks the world. It does this everywhere, but here in the ice, without no landscape feature to cue the brain to calculate distance, it makes the world very small indeed. Ten feet beyond the boundary of visibility, a polar bear could stand watching the ship pass; we would not see it.


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Awakened at 6:03 by a telephone call in Russian. E answers the phone, groggy, listens, and hangs up. Wrong number: just like home. The phone is hard to answer because the handset is locked to the cradle. The water noise in the radiator is louder today; the heat's on. The call was particularly inconveniently timed, E tells me, because she was just about to learn the punch line to a really funny new risqué joke in her dream.

Yesterday's thermos jugs of not-quite-hot water in the lounge down the hall have been replaced by a gleaming new press-button machine which can dispense all kinds of fancy coffee drinks, hot chocolate, or steamed milk at the touch of the right button. Fortunately, it also produces plain hot water, and morning tea today is much better.


Adult kittiwake


First-year (nonbreeding) adult kittiwake


Kittiwakes are crying outside the ship just before 8:00 as I drink tea and catch up on writing. The expedition leader tells us in his morning wake-up call that we have traveled about 500 nautical miles from Murmansk and that it's just under 4C (40 degrees F). He also tells us our official position: 77 degrees and a fraction I missed North and 45 degrees and a fraction I missed East and the wind is 10 kph; noon readings for the ship haven't been posted. (I ask at the information desk during breakfast, and the expedition leader tells me I can get that information on the bridge. The staff plan to put up a map with the ship's course and noon positions marked on it, but haven't done it yet. I kind of think captain and the bridge crew don't want everyone pawing through the logs, though...) The weather is dully overcast and dim, but less foggy than yesterday. The expedition staff say that when we cross into the ice pack later today, we'll probably have clearer skies.

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We are moving along at a good clip through the open water: 18 knots. Weather is bright; there is little to see, however, few or no birds, no ice, no land. The ship slides into a fog bank.



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I find tales of air travel dull, so I won't bore you with my flights to Helsinki on the 22nd and 23rd.



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Polartec fleece, long johns, parka, woolly socks, sweaters, liner gloves, hat, extra hat...Read more... )
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Up early to catch the ferry to Rottnest; allowed myself much extra time to walk around town in the early morning, when the sun is up but traffic is not. A lot of the handsome old buildings in the former shipping quarter have been taken over by a local institution, Notre Dame University. Labs and offices are in old hotels (meaning, pubs), including the TERMINUS HOTEL. The exteriors are preserved; the insides appear gutted and fully "modernized". Indeed the Pakenham Street hostel A left is labeled "VICTORIA COFFEE PALACE." Wasted on a youth hostel, that.Read more... )
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Did some errands, buying stamps and sneakers, walked around. Fremantle has not been renovated to death; outside, at least, it still looks like a typical Australian town. Its heyday was approximately 1880-1910, so the sidewalks are generous and the place is human-scale---I saw a notice up about protesting a six-storey development. The commercial buildings along the main street have verandahs (is that the word?) stretching over the sidewalk, shading it. This feature encourages the ground-floor restaurant operators to put tables outside; it creates a tacit extension to the inside space, invites pedestrians (room, usually ample, is left for foot traffic) to stop, and in the case of non-restaurant businesses, encourages window shopping rain or shine. Amenity pays dividends!Read more... )
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Pretty much nothing happened on January 6. There was the Captain's farewell cocktail and dinner (and it may be farewell indeed: he's thinking of retiring after 30 years). People slouched around, having packed rather fast, with very little to do. The weather was lovely and the sea was smooth, so the walking-circles-on-decks crowd had scope. However, early in the morning of the 7th, something did happen. Unfortunately.Read more... )
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Click here to show Kapitan Khlebnikov's route in Google Maps. (Or Google Earth)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 38°04.7' S 109°45.5' E
  • Course 37°; Speed 11.5 kts
  • Air temperature 15°C; Water 15°C; Wind 16 kts; Direction 230°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 6
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 334.5 nautical miles

Woke this morning to find the ship lolling slowly along at 7.5 kts, bright sun on the sea. Although it has become technically cloudy, the clouds are a thin grey-and-white wash and patches of pale blue are visible, so it's really a fine day. Everyone, me included, is getting their portholes re-opened. The fresh air is very pleasant as long as the wind doesn't switch around to come from the stern. The garbage is stowed below the helicopter deck, at the stern down on Deck 3, and as soon as it began thawing, it began ripening! (I wonder what they'll do with it: it includes both organic and recyclable materials and Australia has very strict rules on what's allowed to be brought in. Incineration?)
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Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 42°27.3' S 105°15.9' E
  • Course 39°; Speed 16.7 kts
  • Air temperature 12°C; Water 13°C; Wind 30 kts; Direction 240°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 7
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 384.9 nautical miles

Last night around 02:00 the heavy rolling began, 20 degrees at a swoop. I heard unidentifiable objects (including, probably, some passengers!) banging and thudding all over the ship, and in my own cabin a few articles in drawers shifted around. The coat hangers didn't fly from one end of the rod to the other, but they squeaked, so I got up and put everything hanging in the cupboard on the sofa and floor. The ship continues to roll and wallow during the afternoon, but not as severely. It's been briskly windy all day, with tattered whitecaps blowing across all of the waves.
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Dark dawn

Jan. 3rd, 2008 08:00 pm
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Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 47°22.2' S 99°28.0' E
  • Course 39°; Speed 16.7 kts
  • Air temperature 6°C; Water 6°C; Wind 24 kts; Direction 250°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 8
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 381.4 nautical miles

At this rate of travel, we might get to Perth early.

Last night after sending an email (radio room closes at 22:00, and I'm usually the last customer of the day) I went to the bar and talked with a few people for a while. We talked about our plans after arriving in Australia — one is taking the Indian-Pacific train, one is meeting up with someone who's dealing with the planning, one going straight home, one taking an organized tour — and about other travel.
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Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 52°22.5' S 93°19.7' E
  • Course 38°; Speed 15.5 kts
  • Air temperature 1°C; Water 5°C; Wind 12 kts; Direction 300°
  • Weather: Fine; Visibility 10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 356.7 nautical miles

Another quiet day, speeding north. The ship's rolling has occasionally (very rarely) gone nearly to 20 degrees today, but again we're having a very smooth passage. It's steady enough for usual meals (tablecloths wetted to prevent sliding dishes and glasses, wineglasses replaced by tumblers that won't tumble); art workshop; movies in the lecture hall; socializing in the bar.Read more... )
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