Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Arctic Weather

This morning at 08:30 we landed at Bruceneset.  Our high winds and grey skies from yesterday evening accompanied us on shore.  Snow squalls whipped across the barren landscape.  We are still very high in the Arctic at N 79˚ 44’  and the weather underscored that fact.  Once on shore, the Expedition Team established a perimeter within which we were free to wander.
Right beside the landing site stood a small trapper’s hut.  Most of us took the time to poke our heads inside. Cozy for one.  Two people would cause a claustrophobic response.

Not far from the hut was an old whaler’s grave.  No one knows who lies here or what befell him.  The solitary grave certainly gave one pause for thought.  What a lonely place to end your days.

The austerity of the landscape, the solitude of the tiny hut, the lonely whaler and the onset of autumn Arctic weather combined in a powerful way.  Bruceneset left an indelible impression on our minds not just of cold weather but of the cold and inhospitable nature of life in the Arctic.
We had a many miles to travel before our next scheduled landing at Graveneset in Magdalena Fjord.  As always, sea time is lecture time on board Fram.  We had three different lectures in the afternoon each of which was aimed at a different language group.

As we approached our landing site at 16:00 we became aware that another ship was there ahead of us.  It was the MS Expedition from G Expeditions.  It was not the Fram that was in error.  Our schedule was published and approved six months ago but in the spirit of Arctic cooperation we agreed to delay our landing operations so we could both complete our programs.  Besides, you never know when you may need a friend or a favour when you’re high in the Arctic!

At about 17:00 the Expedition Team went on shore to prepare the landing site. Light snow fell throughout the landing.  This morning at Bruceneset we were pensive at the lonely whaler’s grave.  Here at Gravneset lay 130 whalers from a period spanning two hundred years.  Any romantic notions of the life of a whaler were dispelled upon visiting this sombre cemetery.

Meanwhile, 23 hikers set off with two members of the Expedition Team to hike deep into Gullyfbukta.  With such a small group and everyone a good hiker, they made excellent speed.  Not only did they reach Gullybreen (glacier) but they were able to walk high enough on the glacier where they had an excellent view of the seracs above the terminus.

What is the furthest north that you have gone swimming?  Try N 79˚33’.  Yup.  Numerous people went for a polar plunge at the end of the landing.  My goose bumps got goose bumps just watching them.