Late Breaking Dispatch

Tags: Feist

Snapshots as of 10:35 pm (boat time)
In the open sea west of Greenland, 71 degrees latitude

In each town there are wooden houses painted Bahamas hot pink, primary blue, creamsicle orange, cherry red, canary yellow, fluorescent green… scattered across rock hills climbing up from the black sea. A local boy who, seeing all the cameras (there are people taking pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures of the ice, all being filmed by people taking film of the people taking pictures of people) took off his shoes on the beach and ran into a long thin creek reaching out the sea, breaking the thin film of ice with his bare feet. All of a sudden pretending not to see the cameras, kicking up water at his little brother, they ambled off down the beach. A little speaker around his neck playing tin-y distorted rap, staccato syllables whipped away by the wind coming off the meringue topped icebergs standing silent just off the shore. Black meat hanging on nails outside wooden shacks. Dogs are chained up on the rocky hills between the houses howling together from every edge of town like the call to prayer, and outnumber the people behind the coloured doors. We walk around like time travelers in our winter space suits while the locals skid by in runners and t-shirts.

At night on the boat a small glow from our search lights illuminate the edges of the black mountains rolling under us. Clinging to the white railing, waist high, we skid along the skating rink decks. Too easy to imagine being swallowed up in the immeasurable darknesses all piled on top of each other. The icebergs sail past us silently and then crack like 200,000 year old cannons. Today is day 2 of straight plowing southward with Greenland far off to our left. My porthole looks west and Ludvig told me on very cold days from certain points Greenlanders can see Canada. Nicole saw a map and said she saw that Canada is 80 miles away tonight. I’ve been daydreaming of finding my way to the coast of Baffin island and connecting the dots home… dot dot dot.

Today Jarvis went around interviewing the Russian crew, having put together a list of about 30 questions. I came along to get a chance to see the netherworld in the galley and the Russians on their turf. Some had been on the boat 16 years and had gone pole to pole dozens of times. He asked all sorts of stuff, like, “What do you think all these passengers are doing on this boat?” to which they shrugged and said “Maybe they just like to be on the boat?”, “Maybe they want to look at the ice?” and “I think there are some scientists checking out the ice and some singers who are supposed to sing for them?”

He asked “Do you get sick of spending so much time with the same people?” and they all pretty much said no.

Could be the sauna.

A stereo duct taped to the wall with shoe boxes of Russian cassettes, overflowing ashtrays, plates of candles. We’ve also stumbled upon their “Russian whiskey” in a windshield washer bottle stashed under the cedar benches, with a little drawing of a person falling off the side of a boat with crosses in it’s eyes.

Shlomo, Jarvis and I jammed with 2 mics in a mini amp the size of a deck of cards and a kid’s plastic turntable on which Jarvis had that Mexican dancing song where everyone yells “tequila!”. I guess shreds of that shredding will end up on Shlo’s podcast called, I think, babelbox. From there I had the idea to try and get the whole boatload of people to sing Sea Lion Woman with me. Shlomo beatboxing and the gang of 40+ singing the backups and clapping, which we’ll try to do tomorrow afternoon. Maybe to try and summon something sealion-ish to appear? Or anything from the deeps with fur or a tail??

Having seen nothing alive on this trip besides one smudge of black on a beach through binoculars (which I think was the great wild miniature schnauzer of the Arctic) and a whale-looking wave, we were wide eyed at the tally on the galley kitchen wall. Labeled “Bears 08” there are stripes counting to 85. 85 polar bears that the cook Beverly alone has notched in her bedpost so far this year, though she said usually her tally is in the mid 100s.

After dinner, Laurie read 4 or 5 stories she’d written. Much like the Greenlandic choir we heard in Uummannaq, though in completely different ways into completely different doors of my mind, something really entered from both of these performances. Both were so honestly casual and so uncluttered by pretense, and so potently good to listen to.

  • Sunand offered to draw me a building if I’d sing him a song.
  • Suzan-Lori had us on hands and knees on a glacier crawling like lemmings.
  • Vanessa marinated apples in vodka for a week.
  • Simon and I did a call with CBC on a satellite phone the size of a brick in 10 layers of wool and gortex.
  • Sophie gets us wine for every meal an outlasts me every night.
  • Everyone wants to know how the debates have been going and if the terrifying novelty of Palin has worn off.
  • Jarvis and I tracked the schnauzer tracks to a small ice cave on a frozen river.
  • Every day or 2 the website notes from family and friends are posted on the bar door and people hover around to collect shreds of affection or news from the outside world.
  • Martha is just plain heavy.
  • Michelle lost her mitten.
  • Today the argo float was dropped in the sea and will still be there pondering salinity and currents four years from now.
  • Jude let us wrap our mouths around poetry.
  • Quentin needs to turn this trip into prose.
  • The British outnumber the rest of us and I keep finding myself adopting a lame cockney accent.
  • Peter is looking for the story.
  • Sunand is the president of a society numbering almost the population of Greenland.
  • I read a letter on yellow stationary under the northern lights.
  • Shlomo gave Laurie a beatboxing lesson.
  • The boy in the children’s home played a casio keyboard with preset drum rolls and they said it was traditional Greenlandic music.
  • Graham’s name is Harold.
  • Someone was describing in detail how to make ice cream.
  • I dropped some of the tiny beads from my broken necklace into the cold waves and felt cruel for one second.

One more day left in this miniature microcosm.
I’ve been hiding out in the open over here. Trying to look Out but being looked At by the unblinking eyes of the cameras has been only string attached to this gift of a trip. Distracting the clean horizon like the flash of a ghost in the corner of your eye… the phantom presence making you slightly uneasy but expanding the scope of imagination to include the invisible.
Which I suppose, in this case, is you.


  1. Robert Labossiere

    Posted Monday 6 Oct at 05:35 | Permalink

    amazing to hear what you are doing… no one can say how deeply experiences like you are having affect you, or what will come of them… a thousand things :)

    but hey, I wanted to let you know what you are missing, as if you want to hear it… the election is on a lot of people’s minds; a lot of us are worried, frightened almost, and this is Canada where we don’t really know that kind of feeling about politics and leadership, where we rely on and enjoy exceptional trust…

    anyway, the art/music/theatre etc. scene is taking things particularly seriously, even for them:) e.g. the Department of Culture ( is an ad hoc group of artists, started in Tdot but spread like wildfire cross Canada… we are doing a concert on Oct. 9 at the Phoenix, there are gigs all over the country this week…

    it seems preposterous to ask this way here but there’s no other way… can you come? if you are back in time, if, if, if?

    – Rob

  2. Deanna J

    Posted Monday 6 Oct at 15:49 | Permalink

    You successfully made me feel like a creeper for keeping up with this expedition via the blogposts from you guys. I’m guessing I’d feel rather odd knowing people I’d never see or meet were closely following my ventures in the Arctic. I suppose that feeling is well worth the more sensible thoughts I am now having regarding climate change after keeping up with such an expedition.

  3. Keirsten

    Posted Tuesday 7 Oct at 22:06 | Permalink

    I have three words and only three words to say besides this sentence I just wrote. “Write a book”