2004 Expedition Blog - Day 10

Date:

Sunday, 19 September 2004, 21:50 (CF2 time)

From:

Dan Harvey

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
Jan's eco death tour...
Attachments: 3 images
Basalt rock inlet glowing pink in the sunset Polar bear tracks in ice, off the Hinlopen Strait Reindeer antlers half buried in snow

Having survived the wild whirlpools of the Hinlopen Strait we entered a completely calm inlet and anchored. A small group of us went ashore with Jan and Harko - this walk later became known as Jan's eco death tour as we first encountered the skull of a reindeer with a beautiful full set of antlers, further up the hill we found the rest of it's decomposing half eaten body.

Walking up the basalt rocks we came out onto a frozen bog - which a month or so ago would have been very wet and muddy to cross but was now hard and solid to walk on. In places the frozen water was crystal clear - peering down one could see mosses, plant life and even feathers encased as if preserved under resin. These expanses of ice proved to be great for skating on - running over the snowy ground and sliding as far as you could - great fun until a number of us had fallen over (luckily no broken bones).

On the edge of one ridge Jan said that he had found the skeleton of a young polar bear that had been killed by an older male bear (something they apparently do quite often). With in a few minuets he had re-found it under the snow, it's skull clearly showing holes where the male bear had chewed into it. Whilst being less than a year old it's claws which still lay next to it in the snow were almost an inch long, making you realise how dangerous a fully grown bear could be.

Bear, arctic fox and reindeer footprints cris crossed the snow. Walking up we over looked the strait that we had terrifyingly been tossed around in earlier, the water now looking less frantic from this height but also because it was on the turn, as the tide changes every 12 and a half hours - flowing one way and then the other. Something Gert had to be aware of otherwise we would not have been able to pass if the tide had been against us!

On the top of the cliffs we found other remains of seal and more reindeer bones. The walk which Jan said should only take a couple of hours; with us became more like a 4 hour trek, each of us wanting to stop, take a closer look, film and photograph things. Every where you look in this environment one sees things one has never seen before and quite possibly will never see again!

Dan Harvey

Date:

Sunday, 19 September 2004, 17:08 (CF2 time)

From:

Colin Izod

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
Dry, desolate and very, very cold
Attachments: 2 images
Sailing in sea ice and through currents in the Hinlopen Strait Swirling currents in front of basalt rock cliffs in the Hinlopen Strait

Things have shaken themselves into shape and been going really well the last few days. We've been working hard at science and got some terrific stuff down on tape. Especially we did an amazing plankton trawl in Palanderbukta, a fjord which appeared to be about to freeze over. Sea temperature was -0.5 and depending on salinity, freezing temperature of sea water is about -1.8.So we were within 1.3 degrees of staying there for the winter! The sea looked like a jelly about to set! The crew weren't worried!

The landscape was dry, desolate and very, very cold - vast ice cap domes swooping down to dry brown peninsulas - no green because they are covered with snow most of the time. Yet the plankton were amazing - small black sea butterflies flitting about, a little translucent chap with brilliant orange wings and four orange suckers for a mouth (we called him Fred) - and that's just the ones you can see with the naked eye. The ones under the microscope were stunning - delicate comb jellies and copepods - incredible shapes you couldn't even dream of. Mike Vingoe described them brilliantly for the camera and now we love zooplankton!

We have been doing these simple science experiments to explain some of the key concepts of ocean currents and climate change and Mike is really terrific at presenting rough science to camera - pouring coloured water of different temperatures and salinities together to show how the different layers of the ocean slide over each other; making the connection between the plastic junk we have collected on lonely arctic beaches and loss of biodiversity.

We have been on our way south now for a couple of days now and at the moment we are sailing gently to the South East along the coast of Barentsøya (look at the map on the website!). Nick Edwards is drying one of his watercolours with a hair dryer. Phil and Sarah are watching Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD. We have to reach the bottom of Edgeøya by Tuesday night to give ourselves the chance to get across to Bear Island, the Devil's Dance floor and Tromsø in time for the plane home...

We entered Storfjorden (the big fjord) from Hinlopen Strait through an incredibly atmospheric and very narrow channel, with basalt cliffs towering off to one side. The tide difference between the two straits made for an incredible weir race with the currents boiling and swirling around us, carrying the boat along at 4 knots with the engine idling. At one point we were sliding towards the rocks, flocks of kittiwakes rising off the water... Gert the captain gunned the engine and we did what felt like a sliding handbrake turn down surging rapids at 13 knots!. To be on a 120 ft sloop behaving like a kayak in white water was scary and very invigorating! We got great coverage from all angles, including a camera at the top of the mast.

Colin Izod

2004 expedition route map