2003 Expedition Blog - Day 14


Sunday, 8 June 2003, 11:36


David Buckland


2003 Expedition

Back on terra firma
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It was sad for us all to leave the Noorderlicht at the end of a most successful expedition. A great thank you to Ted the Captain, Mika, first mate, Anna the cook, Ward, and Dr Ko de Korte who all helped to ensure the success of the science experiments, the film making, the work of the artists and a joyful Cape Farewell crew.

The final days were spent laying a line of XBT's into Longyearbyen fjord, an illuminating visit to the Russian coal mine at Barrensburg [including vodka!] and a glorious candle lit dinner on our last night (Capt. Ted had to put all the storm covers on the windows to block out the 24hour daylight.) The evening was rounded off with a beautiful Bharat Natyam dance by Suba out on deck to the music of Max's recorded bearded seal songs. Joyous times.

The science team of Sarah and Val are now logging all the data and viewing the plankton samples. The ocean data is then compared with known information about the meeting of warm Atlantic currents and the cold polar water and how this affects plants and animals in the area.

Following from this, we learnt that the priority by the Norwegian government and scientists is to stabilise and preserve this most beautiful and important archipelago, to keep the land and glaciers unspoilt and the wild life preserved. This also means managing the ocean around Svalbard in a sustainable way. Norway has established a Fishery Protection Zone of 200 miles around the islands, but few countries have recognised Norway's right to enforce fishing regulations in Svalbard waters. As a result Norway has adopted a 'softly, softly' approach where infringements of regulations do not lead to arrests or fines. There is a fear that current regulations are not strict enough to protect the area from over-fishing.

A depletion of fish stocks would have severe consequences for the food chain. The plankton are consumed by the fish and whales, but if the fish isn't available in suitable quantity, the seal population will decrease and both the loss of fish and seal would have a direct impact on the polar bear population and bird life. It seemed essential to us that the control of the Norwegian governorship should extend offshore and that regulations should be tight enough to ensure sustainable fishing practices. Then this true arctic wilderness will have a chance to survive - although the changes in temperature and ocean movement will still continue to effect this balance.

There was a final farewell at London airport and the group dissipated into the corners of the world. Gary Hume to Venice for the Biennale, Dan Harvey joined his partner Heather Ackroyd to work in Wales, Gretel to Paris then California, Val, after a brief week in Southampton, returned to Norway, the film crew and Colin immediately started filming again and Alex and I launched straight into working on all the material gained from the voyage.

To the future: We are working with the Geography Association to develop a new Geovision course based on the findings from the voyage. This is sponsored by NESTA and will include a CD, VHS video and published book and after a period of evaluation should be ready for schools in England in 2004. We are also currently fundraising to produce a similar teaching module to be developed with the National Oceanography Department (formerly the Southampton Oceanography Department)and the Association of Scientific Education . Both Gary Doyland [Head of Geography, Camden Sch. for Girls] and Suba Subramaniam [Science Teacher- Croydon Sch] were filmed during the voyage and will be integral to developing the teaching programs. Val is working with Colette developing the website of the SOC which is hosting the voyage broadcast - many thanks to Val and all at Southampton for all the work done.

For the Artists, we are trying to go back to Ny-Ålesund in March 2004 to stay with the research scientists there to view the Northern Lights, experience the absolute cold and continue working with sound recordings [Max Eastley], video and stills. David Hinton is working on the final draft for a film proposal and should be working with us in Ny-Ålesund. Dan and partner Heather Ackroyd will hopefully be able to do some work in situ, as will Gary Hume and myself.

The final Arctic expedition is planned for September 2004 when we will attempt to sail from Spitsbergen to the north east coast of Greenland along the 80th parallel, then travel south to Scorsby Sund, the largest fjord in the world where seven glaciers produce a parade of icebergs leaving the Sund for the open sea. This voyage will de interactive, conduct scientific experiments, develop further the education programs and produce art of quality, invention and beauty. We are working on putting an exhibition of all the artists' work, which will tour worldwide; it will be complete with a book and DVD of all the material gathered during the Cape Farewell expeditions. These are our ambitions and are excited for this journey ahead to make them real.

David Buckland

2003 expedition route map