Thursday, July 22, 2010

Polar Ice Cap

Near The Top of The World

Note: I am writing this on July 20, 2010, even though the ship has no internet. We have been advised that limited internet will return on the 24th, so until then I will continue to write and save these for later transmission. Enjoy!

Last night during dinner, I realized the strange disconnect in my surroundings. Lisa and I were enjoying a wonderful specially prepared dinner while sharing a very nice bottle of wine amidst elegant surroundings suffused with low music in the background, while just outside the window which we were sitting next to, we were almost at the top of the world. We were traveling across waters which in winter are solid ice. Even then the waters were dark and foreboding, with white caps raged in all directions. People have given their lives to travel this far North, and there we sat in the lap of luxury as if we did not have a care in the world. All I can say is, “What a Wonderful World We Live In!”

Today, the weather has worsened considerably. We now have rough seas with strong winds buffeting the ship. The outside air temperature is at 32 degrees and much of the ship is now covered with ice. The water temperature is down to 35 degrees and a short while back we passed through a heavy snow shower.

However, the Captain just came on with his morning briefing and announced that we have just crossed 80 degrees North Latitude and we have made better time than he had estimated yesterday. For that reason we have actually gotten quite close to the edge of the Polar Ice Field. We had been travelling north at about 20 mph, however because of our proximity to the ice, he has turned the ship to the northeast and slowed down slightly. He has told us that we have several hours to linger in this region before having to turn back south. During that time, he is hopeful that the weather will improve and we will be able to see the Polar Ice field and to approach it safely. What an excitement that will be……. So, I will suspend this blog until later today and let you know just how far north we finally got and if our journey to the ice was successful………………………………

We were successful!!!!! As the morning progressed, the weather conditions improved substantially. The winds abated and the seas calmed. I knew the Captain was serious about finding ice when I noted a 20 degree turn to the north and an increase in speed. By now the temperature had warmed above freezing and the clouds were lightening. Lisa and I went to lunch, and while eating, we saw our first lone piece of ice. Over the next hour the amount and size of the ice pieces increased, and then at 1pm it happened; we reached the very edge of the Polar Ice Field. DSC_1924 By now the outside temperature was 26 degrees and we had a light snow and sleet mix. The water temperature was down to 32 degrees. The Captain maneuvered the ship as close to the ice as he could, but noted that because of the very high winds this morning the ice had been broken up and scattered over a large area. We could see large icebergs in the distance, but it was not possible to get up close to them under the conditions.  I was surprised to learn that the ships radar was not much use in locating the edge of the ice. The staff paid more attention to the water temperature in order to tell how close they were to the Polar Field. The colder the water got, the closer we are, and so we had been chasing temperature lines.

In the meeting room on deck 11 they have mounted an exact working replica monitor which shows the main navigation display from the bridge. DSC_1960 I was dumbfounded to see that there was no data displayed above the 80 degree line of latitude. To put it simply, we had run completely off the charts. By my calculation we are at this point around 600 miles from the North Pole, and at a latitude of 80 degrees, 40” North.

The ship has now turned south and will be headed back to a group of islands of which the largest is Spitzbergen. These islands are icebound in winter and literally hang to the top of the world. Tomorrow we will stop and anchor off a small village called Longyerbye, where tenders will take us ashore for a short visit. The ship sails again around 1pm.


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