2004 Expedition Blog
Saturday, 25 September 2004, 11:18 (CF2 time)
Daily blog post, Saturday 25 September 2004
Yesterday was a day of exuberant pleasures - the reason why we sail, bowling along in a force 5-6 on the beam, large rolling Atlantic waves and SUN. Everyone was on deck for a sunset to die for, calm slowly descending as the first headland of the Norwegian coast offered protection. Dinner - another feast by Anna - and we decide by unanimous vote to return to Norwegian time at midnight, three hours extra sleep and showers for the first time in four days as the Noorderlicht returns to an even keel.
'We have lights' Alex announces returning from one of his deck prowls. Instant mayhem as we pile on deck and the Northern Lights literally arch across the whole northern sky. No chance to photograph* as the subtlety is way off our technological scale, but the images are etched on the memory banks, tales of previous sightings abound but nothing interrupts the sheer scale and wonder. Solar winds hurl into the stratosphere, become focused close to the poles by the nature of the Earth's magnetic field, and we witness these billions of particle collisions as they strike the upper atmosphere of our planet.
Simon speculates that we are coming near to a time of polar inversion when north will become south, an event that happens every few thousand years and is an essential tool to measure the age of sediment and rock samples, and Michèle and I speculate that should the demise of the planet arrive, here would be the place the watch it: speculative talk in reaction to an event beyond describing. I had promised everyone that we would see the lights as we entered Norwegian waters after our right of passage sail, and am impressed by my usual irrepressible optimism becoming fact!
We cannot anchor until we clear customs in Tromsø but we have much final work to do as we traverse the fjords and islands of northern Norway so our current passage is more drifting than purpose. The sun shines, the panorama is again breathtaking and the deck is alive with media, science and art activity - it is almost impossible to have a conversation without being admonished by the sound recordists. We finalise work and make plans, how to bring all these experiences, thoughts, ideas and work alive in the clinical spaces of exhibition and public domain, how to weave all this art and science into our concerns about climate change, how to inspire change.
Before lunch is our collective photograph: what an international bunch of disparate professionals have just returned from the very high arctic - I am reminded of a treasured letter I have from Admiral West, the First Sea Lord of the British Navy who expresses support for the Cape Farewell expedition and ambitions, though he does speculate that to sail into these waters with a trained Navy crew would be an achievement, so to try to achieve the same with an assembly of artists, scientists, film crew and teachers could be viewed as very ambitious (implying perhaps foolhardy?). Cape Farewell II has returned, none lost and all inspired!
*Once we were back and wading through the stacks of photographs and film we found that one of the cameras HAD actually managed to record the Northern Lights. Surprising us all it was Sean's mobile phone camera - grainy but distinctly there.