Arctic Fever – Day 5 – On the Edge

July 4, 2022

Pushing north…80 ‘ 52N

Dream – Laid eyes on groups of polar bears wandering around from ice sheet to ice sheet, some with cubs trailing behind, some hunting for seals breathing for air through turquoise ice cracks. We sail into open sea, bowhead or minke whales swimming by our side or leaping out of the water, twisting on to their backs and slapping their tails and fins .. Hello!

Reality – We spent the first half of the day on board in and out of the deck, gloves on and off, getting shots of huge chunks of ice sparkling under the sun, full rainbow in view. We chased after elusive polar bears but all we set eyes on were ice, ice and more ice in all shapes and sizes. The captain delicately steered the ship through the frozen land mass while sailing towards the North Pole. Snap crackle and pop.

We sat through a bunch of presentations about the history of polar bears / Geology / Ship Lingo. Most of the presentations were like ‘  (Topic of …Handbook for Dummies)… ‘. But the Master of Glaciology/Geology was very technical, everything she said went over my head. From what I was able to glean, it’s not looking good for the glaciers.

In the afternoon, we dropped anchor and went on a zodiac ride. Earlier in the day the weather suggested otherwise. We meandered around colossal blocks of ice sculptures intricately carved au naturelle and hardly saw a harp seal poke its head out of the water and then disappear. You couldn’t miss the black common guillemot, a total clash to the crystal like tableau. Every now and then, we stopped to take in the sight and sounds of this off-beat atmosphere. Where was I? 870kms away from the North Pole. According to Googs, we were at big intersection of oceans and continents. Isolated but full of life. 

For the adrenaline junkies or those with a hankering to throw their qualms into the Arctic, the polar plunge was an opportunity. Watching from the upper deck, I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be stripped to a bathing suit in the chilly Arctic only to jump into more ice at freezing temps. Plunge aftermath? The ambiance for the next couple of days U-turned from a sniff here and there to a consistent cacophony of what they call “symptoms of the… common cold”.

Half an hour into dinner, there was an alert via the loudspeaker that a group of fin and minke whales were spotted. It stirred everyone up, they rushed out of the dining room – to layer up and fetch their lenses. The captain slowed down and changed direction to keep up. Miles away, we could see it blow from the deck, sleek dorsel fins dipping in and out of the water and what looked like a halo was a large flock of seagulls circling around. They were chasing for food and occasionally breached the surface. Half an hour of excitement a la clicks and chills. Back at the dining hall, our cold meals were waiting for us. I guess the kitchen didn’t time for this.

After a lighthearted presentation of wildlife art, we called it a night and sailed towards Monaco Glacier. Our first date at 6am.

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