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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Polartec fleece, long johns, parka, woolly socks, sweaters, liner gloves, hat, extra hat...Read more... )
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