Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ship's Log: Day 11

Noorderlicht in Kongsfjorden

October 16th

We left Ny-Ålesund at first light. Everybody was moving pretty slowly from the night before (including some of the crew). I slept through breakfast for the first time (missing any of Anna's meals was a real hardship). I finally popped out of my bunk around 10am. Aaron said that we would be reaching our new destination of Kongsvegen/Kongsfjorden, by 11. He said I could have an hour of kayak time before lunch. I really need to get some detail shots so I jumped at the offer. I first filmed Audun putting on his drysuit and then lowering the kayak off the ship's side.

Frozen bowsprits

I then climbed out onto the bowsprits (the pole that sticks out very front of the ship) so I could get some overhead shots of Audun paddling. I had to get the Captain's OK for this since keeping one's balance on the bowsprits can be tough without all the ice that had formed on the ropes.

Filming under the bowsprit

After filming from the bowsprits I joined Jan in the Zodiac and we followed Audun who was paddling off towards a glacier. The water was dark, menacing and full of ice. The closer we got to the glacier, the thicker the ice. At one point I asked Audun to paddle out a few meters and then turn and head back towards us. He started paddling away and just kept going. I thought he misunderstood me when he came to a halt. He then magically stepped out of the kayak onto a flat piece of floating ice!!! It looked like he was walking on water. He stood there for a minute, getting his balance, and then raised his arms above his head and smiled! He then gracefully got back into the kayak and paddled towards me as I had asked.

Audun standing on iceberg

Our hour was up so we went back to the ship ... just in time for lunch (meat plate, cheese plate, mustard soup, salad, sardine pizza, and pasta with cheese and ham). After lunch, we all lined up to go ashore. I was in the third Zodiac trip. Sebastian was driving. We all looked heroic with our Arctic gear and cameras as we started motoring off towards the shore. We had gone about four feet when I looked out over the front of the Zodiac and called out, "Iceberg!" just as we hit it! This caused fits of laughter as we picked ourselves up off the Zodiac's floor. The Zodiac was punctured! As the air hissed out, Katja repeated, "there's a bloody hole in the Zodiac!". Crewmembers Jan and Sebastian clung to each other saying "we're scared" ... which sent us all into new fits of (somewhat hysteric) laughter. FYI ... a Zodiac is made of multiple inflated cells. Any number can be punctured without risking the buoyancy on the vessel. This is something most of us didn't realize until later.

Kongsvegen/Kongsfjoden was the most rugged landscape so far! Once we reached shore, we were able to walk right up to the narrow inlet in front of a massive glacier.


The spit of land that we were standing on was covered with all shapes of ice. Jan told us that the ice was due to the glacier calving and warned us to run (and leave our equipment behind) if we heard or saw the glacier calving. If a piece of the glacier falls ("calving") a large wave would completely cover the piece of land where we were all standing. With this warning in mind, I set up to document another of Katja's performances. Jan and Audun hiked to the top of a hill to watch over all of us.

Audun and Jan at Kongsfjorden

Once we were all finished with our work for the day (this was such an amazing and dramatic landscape, many artists wanted to work on projects here) we started to walked back to the Zodiac pick-up point. As we were leaving I stopped, put down all my cameras and looked around ... telling myself, REMEMBER THIS!

Artists at Kongsfjorden

Before dinner, I downloaded the footage I had shot onto the external hard drives that I had brought along (downloading was a time-consuming daily activity). Anna topped off this incredible day by serving rack of lamb. After dinner, Katja, Willie Somma (who was filming on the ship and hadn't made it ashore that day) and I asked Aaron if we could stay here for one more day. This will be our last glacier of the trip and we weren't ready to leave the dramatic ice behind. Aaron said it wasn't possible as rough weather was approaching and the Captain wanted to be sure we would arrive back at Longyearbyen on time (this alone was enough of a reason for all of us to be sad, but the thought of no more ice and returning to civilization reduced us all to tears). I'm living in a confusing state of mind ... I'm so attached to this landscape that I'm mourning its loss even while I'm still here and at the same time I'm really looking forward to seeing Bob and home.

My luxurious cabin

That evening I got all set for a nice hot shower (soap and shampoo all in place), just to find out that the water was cold! I refused to take a cold shower, so I abandoned the idea for the moment, got dressed and joined the group watching a sci-fi film in the lower salon. After the film and a quick test of the water temperature, I happily enjoyed a hot shower. I've adopted a strategy of wearing all three thermal underwear shirts that I brought every day. I layer them, moving the one closest to my body to the outside layer each day in the hope that this would keep them "clean". This is why hot showers were so appreciated by me and the others who have to share such close quarters with me.

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