We’ve been at sea for five days now and the trend has been to have an adventure at shore in the morning and return to the Noorderlicht for lunch by 1:30. The afternoons are spent sailing and ‘blogging.’
It’s a curious sight to see twenty people sitting at their laptop computers while pitching and rolling in the cabin of a 100-year-old schooner at 80°N. To a fault, the writers and artists on Mac, the scientists, PC. I suspect there are more words thus generated in the afternoon than are photographs the entire rest of the day, and that’s saying something. To be fair, I should mention that there are also many serious writers on our journey, who I know to be up to a lot more than this writer could ever pretend to be, but that’s still a lot of words.
Many of the blogs are destined for the web sites; primarily Cape Farewell and then on to Huffington Post, Treehugger and Environmental Defence. There’s a flurry of activity after dinner as files are transferred and photos selected to accompany the chosen texts for the day. And that’s no mean feat, for the sheer number of photos submitted for consideration, combined with our exacting editorial standards, makes for a highly competitive and ‘oft political selection process that leaves many images and even more egos left weakened and fallen on the cabin floor.
Words and images are then transferred to Cape Farewell’s Project Co-ordinator, Nina Horstmann who transmits them via Iridium satelitte feed to Marialaura Ghidini at the Cape Farewell headquarters in London. Nina and Marialaura are our Post Master General and work very hard (and often very late) into the night, to make it all happen.
But it wasn’t always this way.
The following excerpt is from a book purchased at the museum at Longyearbyen entitled:
Greetings from Spitsbergen, Tourists at the Eternal Ice 1827 – 1914.
John T. Reilly, published by Tapir Academic Press, Trondheim.
The early visitors were inveterate writers who never passed an opportuntity of informing family and friends of their daily experiences. Indeed postcards were one of the few souvenirs that passengers could obtain during their polar cruise and, as a result, many more than one might expect have survived the ravages of time. Cards could be bought on board ship and in various ports en route. Haffter, a passenger on the “Auguste Victoria” noted that the number of cards posted during the 1899 cruise came to around 20,000 – an average of fifty cards for each passenger. Indeed one tourist on the “Kong Herald” posted a record one hundred and two cards in a single day in 1898. It was not uncommon to run out of postage stamps, as did the small post office in northern Norway when six thousand cards were delivered from the “Blucher” in 1904.
So it begs the question: why all this writing? For one thing, the distance between points in this part of the world is really vast and sail boats, in our case, and steam ships, in the case above, move relatively slowly, so there’s a lot of time to spend between the moments of activity. It’s true there are lively conversations that occur, especially during mealtimes and into the evening, but there are also lengthy periods of silent contemplation, perfect time to write.
I also suspect that, unlike our Victorian ancestors, we are adjusting to the fact that we are no longer permanently connected to familiar and established networks of colleaugues, families and friends. Old habits die hard and home is a long way away.
But most important, we are very serious about the purpose of our journey and are passionate about sharing our thoughts and observations about the impact of climate change, recorded as we sway along the very edge of the polar ice cap, live and in real time – bumping into ice.