Monday 2 May 2011

Remember the ice?

You don't, dear reader? Don't you worry, not your fault. It's because we haven't  mentioned it yet. When we were moving towards St. Petersburg, there were so many things to talk about, so many pictures to show you that I decided to skip the approach and keep it for later. And what is more suitable to take you back in time than a sea day? So, instead of giving you todays account of people lying out on deck in the sunshine or sitting in the lecture halls, let me tell you what happened only three and a half days ago:
It all began at five in the morning, when we were woken up by a new noise. For the seasoned polar travellers among our guests this slow, crunching sound that seems to come from all sides was pretty familiar - ice! And indeed, FRAM was pushing through a closed sheet of ice. The morning light reflecting on the bright white surface, the chill of the frozen air brought back reminiscences of the Arctic to quite a few on board.
While FRAM left a clear trail of open water in her wake, other ships around us seemed not to be as suitably equipped; the big hulls enshrouded in the icy grip of the Gulf of Finland, motionless, like giant steely animals on a white pasture.
Even without ice it is an interesting, history-loaded passage into St. Petersburg. Kronstadt passes slowly by, site of the famous rebellion. A little later the waters are framed by old WW II warships and submarines that lay idly in a marina next to rusty remains of long-gone heavy industry. It is not a pretty ride, all this rotten machinery, all these wrecks that seem be on no-ones schedule to be ever removed, all the fallen-in buildings with collapsed roofs, decorated with forgotten anchors, cranes and train rails. But it keeps everybody outside, interested, and faszinated by the morbid atmosphere that lies on it.
Finally we turn into the Neva River, and the golden rooftops of the Czars city are to be seen in the distance. On portside a famous ice-breaker, the Krassin, the world's strongest ship of its time, used by Otto Sverdrup and later on to rescue Umberto Nobile after his failed attempt to reach the North Pole with his airship.
And then we make fast on the England Embankment. From now on it's going to be pretty, but this you have already seen here...

So, now you know what happened only three-and-a-half days ago. Next stop Gudhjem.