Posts from Monday 29 Sep

Hold on

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KT wowed Cape Farewell-ers and Greenlanders alike during an impromptu performance at an Ilulissat bar called Murphy’s, backed by the local Disko Bay Blues.
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The Disko Bay Blues Band (with special guests)

The Icebergs, Carol Cotterill and Emily Venabless backing KT Tunstall at Murphy's Bar, Ilulissat
KT Tunstall backed by ‘The Icebergs’ (scientists Carol Cotterill and Emily Venables) and local band The Disko Bay Blues at Murphy’s Bar, Ilulissat. Photo: Nathan Gallagher

Excuse the spelleng mistakes, the grammatical errors and the mistaken cultural references, but this blog comes after only 6 hours sleep total in two nights (holding a satellite phone outside, pointing at the sky in the snowing Arctic is certainly a new experience for 3am internet roaming). This alongside the introduction to the most dramatic landscape on earth can only lead to a brain that somewhat resembles the broken ice floating through the sea.

David Noble and 'Murphy' locals.
David Noble and ‘Murphy’ locals. Photo: Nathan Gallagher
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If the ice doesn’t melt and the water doesn’t freeze…

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Robyn Hitchcock opens Cape Farewell’s contribution to a night at Murphy’s Bar, Ilulissat with a modified version of ‘Cocaine’ – including some relevant lyrics ‘If the ice doesn’t melt and the water doesn’t freeze, it’s okay’, (well it’s not really…).
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Icebergs and discos in Disko Bay

David Noble

My eyes opened this morning to a seascape of icebergs barely outside my cabin. We had moved much further north overnight, toward the Disko Bay area. The area is littered with icebergs that originate from the Ilulissat glacier, move through the Ilulissat ice fiord and dump into the ocean in Disko Bay.

The glacier is sick. It has climate change. As a result, the glacier is retreating at a lightning pace. Right now, it is retreating by 38 metres per day; over the last 10 years, it retreated by more than 16 kilometres.
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Red Ice

Red Ice photographs by Chris Wainwright

Red Ice photographs by Chris Wainwright (artwork in progress)

Cape Fear

Lori Majewski

A gorgeous sunset has painted the Arctic pink. Singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock has romantically referred to the scene as a “bonfire on the horizon.” But I am not fooled by her beauty: These are dangerous waters, and Cape Farewell does not want to give the impression that this is a pleasure cruise.
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Looking Up!

Good news this morning – A new software CD is on its way to us with the latecomers of the group! Once the artists had ventured ashore, we had a couple of hours of ship time to go and test out some solutions for the seafloor sampling. The fantastic news is that it worked! I’m sure you’ll hear all about it from Carol and Dave soon enough. Aside from the science bit, we’re on the edge of a massive iceberg field. These things are huge, I’ve never seen anything like it, and they’re pouring out of the fastest retreating glacier in Greenland at a rate of knots. The scenery is breathtaking and I’m off out to see some more of it before we start another survey line. Hope all’s well back home! :o)
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Things Disappear

Listening to radio an interviewer ask their interviewee “describe the experience for the listener”. Description is all the listener needs, imagination does the rest. “well…” comes the reply “its just too beautiful for words”. The answer makes me want to rip out the interviewees tongue and slap them with it. The pursuit of description engages and overcomes the possibility of failure (to describe). If something is worth pursuing it means it matters. Ergo “it’s just too beautiful for words” causes things to disappear. You think I am taking this too far. Good. Then we are on the same page.
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Even I Have Not Seen What I Have Seen

Our Second Mate has a fondness for the phrase: You have not seen what I have seen. This delivered ominously in a rich Russian voice. I think he’s probably right and am keen to keep things that way. But on Monday, after a walk through snow-wrought hills, we topped a level and before us swept miles of glacier debris in graded chunks, with the larger ones leading to the glacier itself, some 30 km upfjord. The sky was doing its usual “I can do this, and have you seen me do this, and then there’s this” routine. Words were a bit redundant so we stood looking out and talking about really unrelated things to keep calm. The record industry, Battenberg cakes, Sarah Palin, Michael Palin.

Then off we waddled in our Thinsulate symphonies on another walk led by our Inuit guide Ludvig, twisting through icy swampish land, heading downwards this time. Lemn pointed out a scene of polar gorgeousness and what a great picture that would be. I agreed: it didn’t make a bad reality either.
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Photo by Nathan Gallagher

Success! We started the day with a sail up to the Jakobshavn Isbrae ice field, created by the grounding of icebergs from the glacier against a recessional moraine.

The glacier itself “flows” approximately 38m per day. However it only calves every 2 – 3 weeks according to local knowledge. This combination – fast flow rates and long periods between calving events results in very large bergs being discharged – see some of the attached photos!
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Iceberg Television

Two standard responses to the problem of global warming are that either it’s not really happening or, if it is, there’s nothing we can do about it now so why not leave all the lights on? Well, it is happening, and the sooner we tame our energy emissions, the sooner the earth can return to being habitable for the citizens and other creatures of the 22nd century. Time is unlikely to stop when we die, it just seems that way sometimes. It’s true that we on this Cape Farewell expedition used aviation fuel and diesel to get here, but we will take the story back with us and spread it like butter on the toast of our item-rich society. As the scientists aboard research the effects of ice-melt on the ocean bed, and trace the possible mutation of the Gulf-stream through salination tests, we artists are being exposed to a landscape that cannot fail to affect our work.
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We wake among icebergs

On our fourth day aboard the Grigoriy Mikheev, we wake among icebergs. A mysterious magical kingdom: distant grey bergs are ghostly portals to the land of the dead, while near us the ice gives off an eerie blue light. Two whales lead us for a while. We disembark for several hours in a tranquil bay on the edge of the Ilulissat glacier’s ice-field. Amidst rock and ice, it’s touching to see signs of life – grasses, birdsong, and bilberries underfoot creating bloodstains in the snow.

Jonathan Dove taking part in the global warming expedition in Greenland
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