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

Last chance to write on dry land – Part 2

ARGO float launch

We still don’t know if we can expect anything else to be in our container than toothbrushes but we hope to find our ARGO float somewhere in there.

Let me tell you a little more about these fantastic pieces of kit. Observing the ocean is a costly and time consuming business. As our crew will soon find out, dangling a temperature and salinity probe over the side of the boat then hauling it up again takes a while and gives us one single profile of temperature and salinity – a speck in the ocean and a snapshot in time. ARGO floats are like self contained profilers, sinking to whatever depth we tell them to and then travelling along with an ocean current and popping up when we tell them to, transmitting temperature and salinity information back to the ARGOS satellite array, then sinking again for another cycle.
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Record in Reykjavik

With only a few hours to go before uniting with the first of the crew to arrive here in Iceland, and only a few more hours again before heading off to our launch point, we are down to the wire. Expectations are still unclear, although one of my soon-to-be crew mates’ blog posts reads “expectations set to the sun”. That seems about right.
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A rare exchange between science and the arts

Later today I’ll travel with a group of musicians and other artists and a team of scientists to the west coast of Greenland. The Cape Farewell project has been taking creative people to the Arctic since 2004, and this trip has a particular emphasis on musicians (the crew list reads like a CD collection). The charge of ‘climate tourism’ is never far away, but at the launch event at the Science Museum KT Tunstall did a tidy job of explaining why she felt it was important to get to grips with the science, to see some of the evidence first hand, and to see what being holed up for ten days with 40 creative people would do to inspire her own work.
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On my way to launch

I’m up, up and away, high in the sky somewhere not too far from home, en route to Iceland, where I’ll be tomorrow before meeting the rest of the crew on Friday morning and then heading on to Greenland where the expedition really begins.

Seems proper to write about my expectations for this trip. What would you expect from twelve days with an all-star cast of artists as diverse, accomplished and as professionally foreign from the science-trained among us as they can possibly be? And mix in a few scientists who are far more science-trained than most of the science-trained among us. And then stick them on a boat, and have a boat ride up and down the coast of Greenland. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for anything – or at least, nothing I know to exist.

I hear there’ll be an electronic piano on the ship, and there was a call out for the guitarists to bring their guitars. One guy makes noises with his mouth. Annie Mac says the sounds that boy makes with his mouth! I wonder what else he’s good at? Surely there’ll be a few other instruments – harmonicas, triangles, some drums maybe. I’ll look for some frying pans to smash my chopsticks on.
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Last chance to write on dry land – Part 1

Hello and welcome to my blog! This is my last chance to write to you on dry land, as tomorrow I’ll be spending many hours on a train heading from the west coast of Scotland down to London to join the rest of the team. I’m incredibly excited now about visiting West Greenland, but cannot yet imagine how it will feel to see a glacier that is losing 20 million tonnes of ice a day. Climate change is real, and we’ll be seeing its effect right before our eyes.
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One day to go

And so we are down to one day to go. At Cape Farewell HQ we are busy answering the random questions and questioning the random answers! It seems that nine months of preparation have gone all too quickly and we’re counting down the hours and not days or months to departure. Our launches are launched and so we set sail.
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The Ice Pages

decaying glacier 2004 voyage

This non-captain’s log will be the mental spillage from what is now my second voyage with Cape Farewell. This expedition features some major differences from the 2004 expedition, which was on a gorgeous 1909 Dutch 2-mast schooner that everyone fell madly in love with. There were 25 of us onboard: 5 ship’s crew and the rest were CF scientists and artists. (See the artwork, science and education that came out of that trip).

This 2008 trip is on the mighty Grigory Mikheev, a Russian ice-breaker. It boasts a huge crew-list of 40-plus musicians, artists and scientists and then the 20 or so Russian crew. I imagine, a very different voyage. So let’s see. Snoods on, sketch-book and hip-flask packed, expectations set to the sun. We’ll leave the stars to the navigator.
This message has been sent from my CloudBerry® (poor Arctic joke)

Hello from Shlomo in Moscow

Hello. my name is Shlomo. I am a beatboxer who loves music, people and peppermint tea. Right now I am pretty excited to be going on an arctic adventure.

Shlomo in Moscow
Shlomo in Moscow

But I am not going yet. Right now I’m on the way back to London from Moscow. I am one of the 3 late comers who will be joining the rest of the crew a few days in.
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Science Weekly podcast: KT Tunstall’s trip to the Arctic

The latest Guardian Science Weekly podcast features GM crops, space dust, a green car powered by petrol and KT Tunstall’s trip to the Arctic. “Singer songwriter KT Tunstall tells us about her trip to the Arctic with Cape Farewell and why climate change is a new religion. She’s furious with claims the expedition is just a publicity stunt…”
Read the full article and listen to the podcast ›

Explore the interactive map

Satellite view of Ilulissat Icefjord

As the voyage gets under way we’ll be plotting our route on an interactive map, powered by Google Maps. Choose to view the map by terrain or satellite view, like the image above of Ilulissat Icefjord in Disko Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage site and the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world. Follow our route on the map ›

Counting down the last days

After much preparation we’re finally counting down the last days before we board the Grigory Mikheev in Kangerlussuaq. For twelve days – from Thursday 25 Sept to Monday 6 Oct – you’ll be able to follow the voyage in blogs from over 40 artists, musicians and scientists. We’ll be brushing aside snow and breaking out the portable satellite gear to broadcast text, images and video direct from the deck of the boat as we sail through the extraordinary Disko Bay. Check the website daily, subscribe to the podcast or sign up for the daily email update to follow our journey.

Expedition route: Kangerlussuaq to Disko Bay

Map of Greenland showing Disko Bay

This Thursday an extraordinary crew of artists, scientists, architects, comedians, musicians, playwrights, composers, engineers, film-makers and journalists come together to journey aboard the science research vessel – Grigory Mikheev, from Kangerlussuaq to Disko Bay. We will voyage across the front of the Jakobshavn Glacier, one of Greenland’s largest glaciers moving at a faster rate than ever before, losing 20 million tons of ice every day. The expedition will continue west, towards Canada where oceanographers will measure an ocean tract across the Labrador Current before returning to Kangerlussuaq on the 6 October. Follow us online as we embark on a journey to this extraordinary landscape. Click to read more about the expedition and our planned route.
View the proposed route map › PDF 1.7Mb