We awake to sea fog and things are very uncertain at our team meeting this morning. Hard to hike and avoid polar bears when we can’t see them. Nevertheless we load our Zodiacs and venture out for a cruise. The jagged rocks and mountains remind me of Northern Ireland, the Devil’s Causeway and the Antrim Coast to be more specific. If this area was more approachable, it would be a major tourist attraction.
Today I am in the zodiac with Jacques – as one passenger remarked, he describes birds as though he is reciting poetry. I could literally listen to him talk about birds for hours and frankly, I am not a bird person at all.
Our big coup for the morning’s excursion is that we sighted a large walrus sitting on its own on some rocks. Its very difficult to get good wildlife shots. You need both a steady hand and a “big gun” as I like to call the huge lens that some of our passengers have. I swear Dave William’s lens was designed by NASA. Anyway I will try and get some of the wildlife shots posted when I have had a chance to collect them from the big gun photographers.
So far – we have managed to sight our own polar big six: bowhead whales, bearded seals, musk ox, caribou, polar bear and walrus. We are hoping for a ringed seal to round out the pack – but at this point, I am feeling very lucky indeed.
I was fairly sluggish this morning – a combination of adjusting to the time change and I think a bit of cabin fever. But something about being out on the Zodiacs exploring the rugged shore line, coming upon a walrus and watching the birds dipping and diving over the ocean that has perked me up. It is nothing that some beautiful scenery can’t cure.
I have fallen in love with the Arctic. It is desolate, barren, forbidding, wild and untamed. This is what makes her magical and giving – with new surprises of natural wonder around every new corner. It is no wonder why this land would enchant those British explorers. Would you rather be stuck in grimy, overcrowded England or in the open seas, breathing fresh air. I can absolutely see the appeal.
I want to capture what makes the Arctic so appealing, but I fear it can’t be put in words or captured in a photograph. How can you describe how cozy and charming a Russian working ship can be? There are no luxury amenities, fancy china, fresh cut flowers or evening shows. I am staying in a room with bunk beds and two portholes with heavy metal covers and thick screws to fasten them closed. I am sharing a bathroom with many others down a hallway not close at all to my cabin. All things that would seem to be a challenge and yet…not. In fact, emphatically not at all. I love crawling up to my upper bunk at night. Tucking myself in for a good night’s sleep lulled to sleep by the gentle sway of the ship. The shared bathroom builds camaraderie among staff and passengers and we giggle as we strategically try to time our showers so that we are not in each other’s way. In some ways it is like visiting someone’s remote cottage. Much more comfortable than camping, but the spirit of camping comes through.
This afternoon the true notion of expedition cruising is displayed. We jump into the Zodiacs to go see what we can see. We cruise up and around the beautiful rocks and small islands and eventually come up to an area for a nice landing. Without any prior knowledge we find the most magnificent spot filled with ancient Thule archaeological remains, a lovely reflecting pool, a small lake and these wonderful “boulder gardens” as I like to call them. Huge giant rocks balanced on their own. Like a group of red jacketed ants we spread out over the area. The ground was literally covered with berries.
We have been lucky lucky lucky on this trip, but then I think you make your own luck. Tonight Lois is reading Tarot Cards and fortunes in the lounge. She has read mine and tells me that I am going to make a big decision. I can’t wait.