We just crossed over 60 degrees South latitude, and are seeing ice for the first time! I don’t care how many times I come down here… sea ice never gets boring. It’s hypnotic, watching it rise and fall with the waves, listening to it scrape and slush against the ship’s hull. For now it’s just brash ice – the remaining chunks of broken-up pack ice and crumbled icebergs – but by this time tomorrow we’ll be well into berg territory. The weather right now: air is just above freezing, the water is just below freezing, and there’s so much fog I can barely see the stern of the ship when I’m standing on deck.
Sigh. It’s back to reality for me. Back home from the Arctic. Back to the jolly unpredictability of automatically flushing toilets. Back to a dichotomy of night and day.
Since I was mostly without internet for the the duration of my Arctic adventures, I suppose I’ll fill you in on what happened. I will start from where we left off: Resolute Bay.
Resolute more or less consists of a small Inuit community (population 229) and an airport. I’m told it’s the northernmost place in this hemisphere to which you can take a commercial flight. When I say “airport” don’t think tarmac and terminals. The runways are gravel. The buildings are very small and very hearty. The planes, too, are very small and very hearty.
Resolute is also home to the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP), which provides such exciting luxuries as hot running water, a pool table, and a kitchen. Outside, it’s foggy and frigid, with bare ground stretching to the left and right, and iceberg-littered water swathing the horizon. Inside, it’s a huddled group of scientists and explorers. Most of them are waiting for the fog to lift so they can hop a tiny plane to whatever wild, remote Arctic island is their destination. Many of them are wearing an endearing mishmash of down vests and woolen things. None of them are wearing shoes (a sign over the door in the entryway reads: Leave your boots here. THIS MEANS YOU! )
After dinner, the eight members of my group met for a round of icebreakers (which, of course, is a funny pun when you’re in the Arctic). We were assigned a tent, since the beds available inside the PCSP hut were already taken.
Above the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set during the summer. You can imagine that waking up at 2:30am to broad daylight is disorienting. Waking up at 2:30 to broad daylight and roaring airplane propellers is even more disorienting.
The following morning we waited in a large warehouse before climbing the ladder into the tiny belly of our tiny twin-otter plane, and taking off at last for Axel Heiberg Island.
Today we made the hike to the internet–a few miles over tundra and glaciers–so I thought I’d write something just to say I’m alive. Okay so “alive” would be an understatement.
More when there’s internet,
Looking out the window of the plane yesterday, I was ecstatic when I realized that no, that’s not a very lost sailboat on the water down there. No, indeed, ladies and gentlemen…
IT’S A HUGE HONKIN’ CHUNK OF FLOATING ICE
And it is not alone.
Yes, folks, welcome to the Arctic. Resolute Bay, specifically. We arrived here yesterday after roughly seven hours of flights up from Ottawa. This will be our last stop before hopping a twin-otter plane to Axel Heiberg Island, two hours even further north of here.
The word barren, while accurate, does not do justice to the Arctic. It is starkly beautiful.
Sleeping in the tent last night was less than cozy (note to self: wear a hat to bed), but I am still excited out of my mind to be here. We are hopefully flying to Axel in half an hour, but the fog may postpone our departure. Visibility is maybe 200 meters at most. Not prime flying weather.
It’s quite a hike from our camp at Axel to the nearest internet access, so this may be the last you hear from me for a while. Stay tuned…