2004 Expedition Blog - Day 7

Date:

Thursday, 16 September 2004, 23:49 (CF2 time)

From:

Michèle Noach

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
This town...
Attachments: 2 images
Close-up of an ice shard sticking up out of a bed of snow Simple timber hut in an Arctic landscape

This town...

Tonight we were having dinner when Gert, our fine and mysteriously smiling captain, burst through the door announcing "BELUGAS, tonight we heff BELUGAS".We all clambered into our warm over-layers and dashed to the deck where we peered into the edges of the bay we're moored in, desperate to catch sight of these magical white whales. And there they were. Sort of. These are not the twirling breaching all-singing tap-dancing whales you see on posters. They were subtle and quite modest in their display around the bay. We saw their backs and heads rear out of the black green water and then they were gone.

Back inside for pudding, cooked by the ever-stirring Anna and then back into waterproofs for our visit to Kinnvika. We zodiac 'd over through the superclear water and shed our life jackets on the stony mini-beach, walking up straight into snow, deep and ultra-violet. In front of us were about 10 huts, built in 1957 by the Finns, Swedes and Swiss for International Geophysical Year. It was a science station used for only one year. Godforsaken doesn't quite capture it. The buildings were unpainted timber, wedged to the ground by some sort of diagonal wooden guy ropes and all in perfect condition. This gives you an idea about how dry it is here. There is no decomposing, no rot, no mould to eat away a history. When you breathe out you cannot see your breath, even though it's minus 3. There is just no moisture in the air. We had trouble making snowballs with the dry snow. Though we gave it a good go.

We wandered amongst these embarrassingly photogenic structures as they perched on the snow beneath a white Arctic sky and slowly started entering them.

In 2002 a German chap called Hauke Trink stayed up here for 10 months with a companion he had advertised for, Marie Tieche. She turned out to be an Englishwoman with a sense of humour that collided with his and they reportedly got on fabulously, up here in the 80th parallel. With the North Pole just a gun shot away and not a Waitrose in sight. Inside their huts were recent magazines as well as oil lamps, chocolate supplies and on the ceiling newspaper pictures of naked women and cartoons and hundreds of wildlife pictures. Objects from the Fifties mixed in with newer things.

Rather than finding this desolate abandoned village menacing or tragic, several of us were debating living here for 6 months and how peacefully and purely you could live here, in extremis. How tempting the absolute zero of this life.

To celebrate this feeling we had three minutes silence. We stood on higher ground and looked across the bay at the tenacious sunset that couldn't bring itself to conclude. Afterwards, all reported different sounds or versions of silence. I think we felt the Northness of where we were. Nothing here is familiar. I'm not sure I can say we're still even on Earth. It's not the one I know.

Except that David cheerily stripped off to the waist for the Cape Farewell calendar outside one of the huts. That seemed reassuringly Earthly.

...becoming like a ghost town.

Michèle Noach

Date:

Thursday, 16 September 2004, 15:32 (CF2 time)

From:

Colin Izod

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
80th parallel
Attachments: 2 images
Cape Farewell crew on Moffen Island, with the Noorderlicht anchored in the distance Walrus swimming close to the edge of the shore on Moffen Island

Today we set off early from our overnight anchorage at Sallyhamna to arrive at the nature reserve at Moffen Island north of the 80th parallel. You can only land there at certain times of the year and the crew of the Noorderlicht have never been here before so it was a first for everyone.

Snow lay on all the boat surfaces as we set off in the Zodiac to the shore. Walruses are pretty playful (and HUGE) beasts so it was a touch worrying as they played around us, as we went in. Moffen Island is like a lagoon with a circle of raised beach and gives the walrus and our cameras an incredible 360 degree panorama with far off mountains occasionally peeking through the clouds. The beach is scattered with Siberian timber and a sprinkling of fluorescent plastic buoys and debris pushed ashore by the pack ice. Every minute the view changes as the sun comes out or a snow storm blows in and out. The walrus herd seemed reasonably ok with our being there, hauling themselves over the snow and snorting occasionally. They seemed to prefer coming to watch us from the sea, diving and twisting elegantly, truly in their element. This colony is a success story, made poignant by the large numbers of skulls and walrus bones scattered in the snow left from less enlightened times.

We crossed back over the 80th parallel and we all drank gluhwein - a sort of Dutch hot punch in celebration. This evening when we arrived at our anchorage we saw beluga whales chasing fish in the distance, and then went ashore at Kinnvika - a lonely research station dating from a joint Scandinavian research project into the Northern Lights in 1957/8. Sitting in one of the cabins reading the log and trying to make out the 50's pin ups pasted on the ceiling, we filmed an interview with our scientists Simon Boxall and Sarah Fletcher, Simon's daughter Emily and Jan our guide. We were interested in what sort of personality is able to withstand long periods in such a place and whether being alone would be worse than being cooped up with people you didn't know! A great day. Tomorrow we set off early down the Hinlopen Stretet.

Colin Izod

2004 expedition route map