Saturday, 11 February 2017

Arctic Blog Saturday Oct 8th - drill and party night

Saturday 8/10/2016. Kongsijorden Bay 79°00'0.00" N 11°39'59.99"
3°C, 10m/sec; Sunrise 09:29 – Sunset 17:58   
The sun is rising slowly above a blue/grey sea; daylight is noticeably later now than when we set off.
Pink light reflects off the mountains, sedimentary layers lie horizontal, then swoop diagonally and fold together, forced upwards by some huge seismic activity which took place probably more than 410-440 million years ago 

The wind drops to gusts of 5 knots, ‘a moderate sea’; a big swell as we head out to sea. Sails raised the ship stabilizes, much to the relief of seasick passengers, and finally we leave Ymerbukta. Sailing out of Isfjorden we head north, bright morning sun shining on the Alkhornet Mountain. The colours are dazzling; such a contrast to yesterday. 

In celebration lunch is taken on deck, and the Captain gives an impromptu lecture on navigation with setsquare, compass and GPS. (Pic) We learn that being so far north plotting positions needs to take into account compass variations due to boat drift and the North Pole’s magnetic pull. 

Apparently if you are near either the north or the south pole, a compass becomes useless. It points towards the magnetic pole, which is not the true geographic pole. Those two poles could be quite far apart and in different directions. Magnetic North Pole is not the same as "true north;" it is several hundreds miles further south of geographic North Pole. Earth's iron core and movement within its outer part generates a Magnetic field, and the magnetic North and South Poles are where the field is vertical. 

A true-color image taken on May 5, 2000, by an instrument aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft, over the North Pole, with sea ice shown in white and open water in black. Credit: Image by Allen Lunsford, NASA GSFC Direct Readout Laboratory; Data courtesy Tromso receiving station, Svalbard, Norway

How to tell how fast we're going.. The Knotmaster!
I walk the deck staring out at the passing mountains and sea and draw rapidly. 
graphite (in mini sketchbook)
graphite, charcoal and pastel (mini-sketchbook)
watercolour and pastel with seawater
Northern fulmars are following us; a flock of what I think are guillemots fly past skimming low over the waves.

The ship’s siren sounds - a call to assemble on deck for drill. A scrabble to don life jackets and warm clothing; we line up on port and starboard sides according to cabin numbers. The crew struggle into bright orange flotation suits that don’t look at all comfortable, but then I guess that would be the least of their worries if it came to it.  (pics) The captain strides amongst us checking, adjusting jackets
Today is spent travelling, the sea growing increasingly calm. We pass mountain ranges covered in snow on one side of the boat, bare red/brown sandstone rock face on the other. 
I take my paper and paint and charcoal to the back deck where it's less windy (and populated) and sit and draw for a while. 
Ink and charcoal mixed with seawater
ink, watercolour and seawater

Then lying on a bench I fall asleep lulled by the ships movements, to be woken by the shout that two Pilot whales have been spotted.
Our surroundings grow increasingly dramatic. Sun setting, orange tinged horizon in a darkening sky with feather clouds, we arrive in a bay hemmed in by snow-covered mountains. 
Anchor dropped, we are at Blomstrandhamna, 78°59,6´N, 012°04.6´E, a bay in Haakon VII Land at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, the northern side of Kongsfjorden, and north of Blomstrandhalvøyamoored Before us is the shadowy glacier Blomstrandbreen under a now clear star-filled sky.
Finally, silence, interrupted by occasional sounds of glacial carving. No wind, but some promised for tomorrow – maybe a kite flying day? 
Small invitations have been slipped under our cabin doors. Tonight is fancy-dress party night. We are all invited to attend. I dress as the glacier queen and float into the saloon. 
Fancy dress party night - Pic by Tama Baldwin

Dancing manically, music floats (or perhaps blasts) out into the darkness of the polar night. It seems quite insane, frivolous even, given the overwhelming beauty of our surroundings, but even in the Arctic one has to party! The Captain appears, dressed in a woman’s bra and grass skirt. 
Hmm… I sidle off to bed.