A wild ride and an adventure

By Matt // Saturday 6 Oct // 16:00:41 // 1 Comment

The rest of the Cape Farewell team is made up of artists, writers and scientists, all of whom are probably writing profound insights into climate change and the remarkable landscape through which we’re drifting.  I’m just here as multi-purpose teevee crew, so this will be my one and only blog for fear of coming across as a charlatan.  I’ve been editing down video for the website as we go, so consider that my record of the trip.  Textwise, here goes not much.

My walkman was 1m20s through track 12 of Polysics’ Now is the Time! as the plane landed in Svalbard, and the volume was up loud.  It is a soundtrack that would make any event more exciting, but particularly so when you’re bumping back to earth on a remote island and are about to embark on a crazy boat voyage.  Try it yourself.  Got on the boat and it was small but beautiful.  We sailed a bit, parked up (they call it “anchoring” out here) ate, slept, walked on a glacier, set sail again.

The events of a week-and-a-bit at sea can easily be condensed into a paragraph; you fall over a lot, you eat great food, you take your turn to steer the boat, you go to bed.  Lots of shooting, editing and drinking, but one gets that in Chiswick.  Unbelievably cool, but with a healthy dose of hardship.  I never felt frightened, though apparently this was through ignorance rather than bravery.  The ship’s crew seem competent, so I feel very trusting towards them.  Renske sure is one capable chick.  There has been only the one vomiting for me, which we have on tape, and only the one significant bout of madness, which is already on the web (Dire Straits is traditional journey music in our family).  Of course there is plenty more to tell about the experience.  Friends and family will hear it from me, but the rest of the world will get a better commentary by reading someone else’s posts. We have some great minds on board.  I shall sum it up as a wild ride and an adventure and, at times, cold and claustrophobic.

Finally hitting dry land was a bit of a high.  It felt liberating to take a walk and stretch ones legs.  Moving without falling, luxurious.  We saw the tracks of an arctic fox and the remains of a bird that had been consumed by an arctic fox.  The euphoria among the group was evident in and, indeed, amplified by the frenzied hitting of the bar.  Cognac served over glacial ice is delicious.  Late that night I took seizure of the satellite phone for a bit of “Dude, I’m in the Arctic” and “Mum, I love you”.  The Northern Lights were above us, and after being informed that Hounslow had cancelled my parking fine I went to bed a very happy man.

A few hours later I was woken by English swearwords, shouted in a Dutch accent.  The pump that clears the waste water had been running in reverse. The captain was standing in the doorway of our cabin, which was a couple of inches deep in salty sewage.  For fear of having it fall off a high shelf, I had opted to stow my camcorder bag at floor level.  About four thousand pounds worth of my personal equipment had been ruined in the least dignified way possible.  My mood crashed.  And then I realised I had a hangover. There was incredible sweetness as Simon and Carole took pains to disassemble the camera and swab it with water and alcohol.  As marine scientists, taking apart unfamiliar equipment suffering from saltwater damage is a secondary skill they have developed over the years.  But it still wouldn’t switch on. That morning was a real kick in the balls for me, but we were in Greenland so I still had to chalk it up as a good day.

As I finish this piece of text, we are sailing away from Greenland.  I think we were there for three days.  It was stunning – look at everyone’s pictures.  I have recordings of Liam play guitar in extreme environments; he’s really good and everyone should buy his records.  Artists have created some stunning work, and we have the processes on videotape.  The Northern Lights last night were truly amazing.  We saw three polar bears today.  I rank these days as highly as any of the other great moments in my life.  And when I tried to fire up my camera this morning, it was alive enough to at least tell me it was water-damaged.  Rock on.

Tags: Matt Wainwright

1 Comment

  1. Alan & Annie W Monday 8 Oct, 2007 // 18:58:28

    Thanks for the report, Matt, good to hear from you, and special thanks to Simon and Carol for their efforts to revive the camera. Matt may have explained that Annie & I have a particular interest in this piece of kit! Still, we’ll get it sorted – it’s no use cryin’ over sewage-contaminated milk!

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