Friday, 24 June 2011

Things That Make Navigation Officers Tense

There are some forces of nature that can put navigation officers on edge.  High winds.  Low visibility due to weather such as heavy fog or snow.  Lots of ice.  Put any two of these factors together and you might find a quiet tension on the bridge that you can cut with a knife.  Today we had lots of ice and lots of fog for most of the day.  If either of these factors are heavy enough, the ship will reduce speed.  The thicker the ice and the denser the fog, the less progress we make.  In heavy fog the navigation officers rely on radar and the GPS.  There is also an extra AB (Able-bodied seaman) on watch in low visibility conditions.  Usually it means that the Captain spends many more hours on the bridge.
For the rest of us, today's fog and ice translated into a nice relaxing day.  It was really great to see large icebergs suddenly appear out of the mist.   Our experience was pretty much the opposite of what the navigation officers were experiencing.
Our day was filled with lectures in three different languages: English, German and Danish.  In the afternoon King Neptune made an appearance on the bow and demanded we pay a price for crossing the Arctic Circle.  The price?  Ice cold water poured down the back of your neck - followed by a shot of whisky.  Maybe we should have asked him if there was something he could do about the fog.
Eventually if became clear that we would not be able to reach our destination, the glacier Eqip Sermia.  The ice was too thick and we had lost too much time.  The decision was made to launch the Polar Cirkel boats and go cruising amongst the icebergs.  Meanwhile the chefs and galley staff were busy barbequing our dinner on deck seven at the stern.  When we returned from our ice cruise we were treated to a delicious buffet of various barbequed delights in the dining room.
At 21:30 the ship's officers and expedition team put on a fashion show in the Observation lounge.
By 23:00 the fog had mostly cleared.  Most of the ice now lay on our port side.  We cruised past literally thousands of icebergs as we make our way south towards Ilullissat.