2004 Expedition Blog - Day 13
Wednesday, 22 September 2004, 23:34 (CF2 time)
Daily blog post, Wednesday 22 September 2004
A full night and day sailing, force 6-7 from the East, cold, rough, good progress arriving tired at Bear Island at 10pm.
The whole crew were on a watch system, teams of three or four, two hours on twice a day. Sounds not to bad but seasickness kicked in reducing the number of crew available and many had to double up. And it was cold and grey with water endlessly washing the decks. I was on the 4am - 6am shift with Sean, Emily and Joe and dramatic it was, the wind rose to a steady seven and the main sail jammed when we tried to reef. Captain Gert climbed up the sail to release the ropes, a spectacular show of abseiling talent that took some 40 minutes at the same time as being pounded by the elements. At one point he collapsed in the folds of the sail shouting to us below that he had found a warm place. Rather him than me, making my job of luffing up the Noorderlicht into the wind seemed mundane. Eventually all was restored to its rightful place and we sailed on, and on, and on. No whales, no ships, no birds in the desolate place, just us heading south - bleak yet wonderful.
We sight land at 9pm in the dying light and incongruously a large vessel streaming lights and busyness, a cruise liner up here in this cold place? Simon, our oceanographer, erupts in a spasm of venom not before witnessed. We are looking at a Russian or Spanish factory fishing ship, one of a few that literally rip the sea bed up and decimate fish stocks before moving on to environmentally destroy another part of the ocean. They totally threaten the fragile food chain up here having serious consequences to the seals and polar bears that rely on the dwindling fish stocks. They now are devastating the Eastern seas off Africa, not only collapsing the fish stock but also destroying the village communities that for centuries have lived in ecological balance with the seas. These fish factories should be stopped now before they cause irreversible damage, international political action is the only answer and again we on board the Noorderlicht are reminded that the tentacles of our southern industry reaches up to this supposedly pristine place.
Once anchor was established and dinner eaten in a welcome relative calm we were treated to a small but promising show of northern light as the clouds sculled by briefly obscuring our magical show. Surf crashing on the shore does not bode well for our morning landing, but we will review in the morning.