Friday, November 6, 2009

Ship's Log: Day 6

October 11th

Noorderlich at anchor
We woke in the morning to a Caspar David Friedrich painting ... so many shades of white, pink, and blue. Just after breakfast we heard the ship's bell ring. The bell is used to call us to meals (we have all become some part of a Pavlovian experiment) and to alert is to exciting events on deck ... like polar bear sightings and the aurora borealis at night ... which we've saw last night!

Anyone who wasn't on deck ran up to see a young, thin male polar bear walking along the shore. These are the most dangerous bears. They are young and unpredictable and hungry enough to go after anything that might be a meal. The captain decided it was too risky to go ashore, but OK'd a kayak trip!

To my surprise another Arctic Circle Project participant asked to use the kayak to get an "on the water" perspective for one of his photographs. I was pretty hesitant to agree (actually I was downright disagreeable as he'd never kayaked in his life, which is dangerous enough in calm, warm water, but can be deadly in freezing water. I also view the kayaks as my art material which took months of planning to find and rent in Longyearbyen, and even more difficulty to get them on board). After a discussion with Aaron (read fight here ... that I lost) the other artist and Audun suited up in MY drysuits and set off. I waited impatiently for them to come back so I could go out in the kayaks and get some footage. I also felt bad for Audun who had to do double paddle duty ... although he didn't seem to mind. When Audun signed on as crew of the Noordrlicht he didn't know he was also signing on as a daily kayak paddler and star of my project.

Audun kKayaking
When the other artist and Audun returned a thick fog had set in which created an amazing, otherworldly landscape for filming. I jumped in the Zodiac and filmed Audun first in the single, and then we pulled out the double. I sat behind and we struck out for the location where the polar bear was spotted (seems we both have a bit of the thrill seeker spirit). We couldn't find the bear so instead we headed towards the fjord's opening to the sea. Looking through the viewfinder, the image of Audun paddling hard looked amazing. I looked up from the view finder for a moment and found myself far from the ship, out in the bay with the waves and wind getting bigger by the minute. We had gone from water that looked like glass to white-capped waves washing over the kayak. To stop myself from freaking out I glued my eyes back to the viewfinder. It was a struggle to get back to the ship since we had the rudder up for better maneuverability. Eventually we had the Zodiac come alongside and Jan put the rudder in the water. I had to pop my kayak skirt to get to the rudder control cables ... something I was reluctant to do in rough water since I wasn't keen on taking in a lot of freezing water. Once we had the rudder down, Audun paddled hard and got us back to the ship safely.

Over lunch the ship sailed to Harnbaek polten/ Liefdefjorden. Anytime we sail or motor during a meal it's an event. Out come the sticky mats that help hold the plates and glasses on the table. Depending on how the boat is listing or rolling certain seats are tougher than others. On the downhill side, you have to hold on for all your worth and hope that the chair doesn't go out from under you. On the long benches, you prop one leg out to help hold you in place, which never quite works so you end up sliding up and down the bench. Meals usually have at least one or two crashes where glasses go flying. We also have learned that you can use bread to prop up one side of a plate to stop soup from spilling.

Bitty Berg
That afternoon Katja and I went ashore with a group of artists so she could perform another Fluxus instruction. We walked across a thin piece of land and found a beautiful cove full of ice and bitty bergs (bigger bitties than we've seen so far). It was an amazing location! A light snow was falling, which soon turned into freezing sleet which completely covered my lens. I tried to clean off the lens with a cleaning cloth, but it was more like using a scraper. After essentially chiseling the ice off the lens a couple of times we decided to call it a day and head back for the ship.

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