Artists and writers have an important role to play and it is vital that they are fully engaged in these (climate) issues

Crossing into the Arctic Circle

Suzan-Lori Parks blogging old-school
Suzan-Lori Parks blogging old-school as we cross into the Arctic Circle, heading towards Kangerlussuaq.


View from the air plane on the way to Greenland as we approach Kangerlussuaq

An amazing birds-eye view of Greenland’s glaciers as we approach Kangerlussuaq.

White Balance

On the chartered plane on the way to Kangerlussuaq to meet the boat I am sitting next to the author Lemn Sissay, who writes witty and beautiful poetry amazingly quickly. He is reading poetry and I am reading my new camera manual, which sums up a few things. Then we start seeing poetry in the camera manual: focus point, focus lock, release mode, live view, auto sensitivity, aperture priority,exposure compensation, colour space, interrupt interval, white balance.
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In-flight science

Carol Cotterill and Quentin Cooper talk science with Jarvis Cocker on the flight to Greenland

Well after an eventful trip out here including radar problems at London delaying our flight by 4 hours leaving us with 2 minutes to spare before Heathrow stopped all outgoing flights for the night (bit of a close shave that one), and luggage chaos as 43 people and 1500kgs of kit descended on 3 airports in 24 hours, we’ve made it! Whilst on the small plane from Iceland to Greenland, numerous photographs were taken of the eastern Greenland coast moving up over the icecap itself.

The fantastic aerial views of the glaciers feeding down from the icecap provoked a multitude of questions about glacier behaviour, stress and strain distributions and icecap thickness and age. A quiet discussion with a few people about the above questions soon resulted in filming and recording by both the American film crew and Quentin Cooper from Radio 4.
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David Noble’s in-flight photo booth

Martha Wainwright, Keflavík Airport

Martha Wainwright at Keflavík Airport
Early morning and last minute emails are on the crew’s minds.

Preparing to sail for the Arctic

The polar regions hold a profound, and even primal, fascination for so many of us. In the case of the Arctic, real journeys of adventure from Lief Erikson to Parry and Fienes, and imaginary ones from Jules Verne to Philip Pullman have added layers of meaning to its magnetic attraction, so to speak. So an invitation to go there would have been the best gift ever, even without the new and ominous message coming from the arctic. For the arctic is the harbinger of what is happening to the global climate. David Buckland, who thought up and made happen the Cape Farewell expeditions, compares it to the miner’s canaries that foretold of the presence of deadly gases underground.
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A Message from the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown


There can be no doubt that climate change is already having significant impacts on the Arctic, the region that many scientists consider to be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for global warming.

Temperatures in the Arctic have risen almost twice as quickly as in the rest of the world, and there has been a long-term decline in summer Arctic sea ice which has accelerated over the last decade, with some experts suggesting that summer sea ice may disappear completely by the mid 2010s. We have this year seen significant loss of ice from two of Greenland’s glaciers — a piece of the Petermann Glacier about half the size of Manhattan broke away in July, and the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, one of Greenland’s largest, has retreated further inland than at any time in the past 150 years. These changes are already affecting Arctic ecosystems and communities, as well as increasing global sea levels.

Climate change is not just a scientific or technical issue, but a cultural one. It is about how people and governments all over the world live with the reality of global warming, and the issues it raises about fairness, poverty and changing lifestyles. Artists and writers have an important role to play and it is vital that they are fully engaged in the debates about these issues. I am therefore delighted to be able to extend my support to the Cape Farewell expedition to Greenland.

Gordon Brown

Almost ready to go

Tonight we head north after 9 months of very detailed planning with the Cape Farewell team. We are collectively relieved, excited and somewhat proud. Vicky, Hannah, Kathy, Nina, Lisa and I have lived and breathed this reality and now we voyage north with what I believe is a quite outstanding group of highly creative artists, musicians, comics, poets, architects, craft based artists, film makers, writers… I’ve been speculating about whether such a powerful creative group has every been assembled before to address what is a culture and life threatening future truth. We will spend ten days together in the High Arctic working with the scientists and crafting our own response. As Vanessa Carlton has put it, ‘to challenge a stubborn world’.
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Shit. I am in Iceland,  with photographers, painters, composers, lyricists, musicians and scientists. We are all  travelling en route to the Arctic to experience Climate Change.   Fifty percent of us know exactly why they are here. They have projects to work on and numbers to crunch. And the other fifty percent? Guess which one I am in? But am I missing something, it’s climate and it’s changing.  Don’t we experience climate change wherever we are:  Paris, New York  or London.  Nature is by virtue, everywhere, so why the Arctic and why artists?

David Buckland explains it much better than I. It has something to do with Cultural Change. “Artists are a on the front-line of cultural change” he says “Think the 1960’s and  the influence of the artists”. I think of the Andy Warhol exhibition at The Hayward Gallery. The Arctic exemplifies the effects of Climate Change as  the edge of a  shadow exemplifies the sharpness of  light.

We slept overnight in a hotel in Iceland and flew another three hours to Greenland where the ship awaits off the coast. Zodiac dinghy boats speed towards us skidding off the top of the waves:  We’re off.

Departure: New York – Destination: The Arctic

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here:
Vanessa Carlton is suffering from the same cold I am.
Feist checked her guitar (Robyn Hitchcock requested that everybody who has one bring it for a little Arctic jam).
History of Love author Nicole Krauss is here at the gate, looking absolutely adorable with her five-month-old baby bump.
Academy Award winning filmmaker Peter Gilbert is saying good-bye to his kids via cell-phone.
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Outward bound

Jarvis Cocker and KT Tunstall checking in at Heathrow

Jarvis Cocker and KT Tunstall swap travel stories at the check-in at Heathrow.
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