ABOARD M/V SEA SPIRIT-Icebergs are getting bigger as we move north, a hint at what lies ahead in a few days when we reach Disko Bay. Ililussat, Greenland’s third largest settlement, is home to a glacier that calves 20 billion tons of icebergs a year.
In the meantime, we head out in zodiacs. After circumnavigating two large icebergs, we slowly motor into a swath of sea ice. Unlike icebergs which are frozen fresh water from glaciers, sea ice is frozen salt water, a slush of ice chunks of ranging from drink- to bread loaf-size. They move together like a herd, separating reluctantly and making a sound that almost conveys annoyance. Feeling it against the sides of the Zodiac emphasizes that however small the pieces look they are much larger below the surface.
We begin to understand the captain’s caution. More closely packed it could be a formidable barrier that can entrap a ship. Sea Spirit’s hull is re-enforced but not like that of an icebreaker.
After floating along in it for a while, the engine won’t start. There’s a block in the fuel line so we transfer to another Zodiac, a tricky and not very graceful maneuver. Given a choice and the biting cold, some of us would have quit but expedition staff is determined to give us a full hour and a half experience. We cruise about looking for wildlife; a faraway seal’s nose poking above the surface is the most we see. Gulls are the only addition to our critter count.
After lunch, we have a treat. Since boarding we have been charmed by guest lecturer Kari Herbert, daughter of famed English polar explorer Sir Wally Herbert, and her family, husband, author and polar authority Huw Lewis-Jones and their winsome daughter, our junior librarian Nell Lewis-Jones.
Kari’s presentation is of her first years living with her parents and 10 Inuit hunting families on Herbert Island in Northwest Greenland and her stories are fascinating.
To her it was a wild, wonderful time but imagine her mother, who had never been farther north than Denmark, arriving with Kari in arms to a tiny settlement of 10 wooden and turf houses held down by guy ropes. And asking where the bathroom was and being told, “the whole of the Arctic, my darling.”
Kari added much insight into the Inuit of Greenland, their beliefs and ways of life.
Later that afternoon, King Neptune and his court of penguins and bucket bearer visit Sea Spirit to christen those crossing into the Arctic Circle for the first time. With great panoply, he emerges from behind the hot tub and ladles icy water over the heads of new crossers. Warmed before and after by tots of brandy, no one minds. Particularly when King Neptune, alias Adam of the Expedition team, himself a first timer, gets a royal dousing and takes refuge in the hot tub. A jolly good time was had by all on the Sports deck.