The rough, the ridiculous and the glorious

By Carol // Monday 1 Oct // 23:05:57 // No Comments


Yesterday was an interesting day…we attempted to tie a nautical knot on the chart with our ship track. Having got within about 60 miles of Scoresby Sund, we came across the sea ice. The aim was to keep the ice to our starboard side and follow it until we reached its southern most extent, then track west into the Sund.

On the 4-6am watch on the 30th, I was confronted with sailing into a headwind, accompanied by freezing sleet and snow. Iceberg watch was vitally important as we were still doing 8 knots under only the jib straight through the ice field. It was bitterly cold as face, toes and fingers slowly froze. At the end of shift it was decided to take the jib down and hold station until it got light and we could spot the bergs early enough. I staggered up front with Barbara, Kathy and Gert – unfortunately the ropes had frozen and we had to battle to untie them..the jib then came down of its own accord under the weight of ice, showering us with ice and hail. Trying to furl a frozen sheet whilst balancing on a heeling ship in the dark with 2 inches of snow and ice underfoot is…um…entertaining! It really felt like the arctic wanted us out of here – what on earth possessed us to think this was a good idea! And to be honest by the end of the night watches mostof us wanted to get out!

The ice had other ideas! Weaving our way through the floating bergs during daylight, we tracked the ice front..east away from Greenland..north-east back towards Svalbard..finally north-west! Only needed a small westwards track to complete our 80 mile circle! The ice had formed a curved arm that appeared intent on ensnaring us in its grasp!

But then the early morning watch today was incredible. The wind had dropped, the clouds parted showing a full moon, the stars were twinkling..and we had escaped the icy embrace and were now sailing south-east again. Slightly ironic that in 24 hours we were only 15 miles away from where we had started on the 30th! Spirits were up onboard, and the photographers were out in force snapping the ice encased ropes, and weirdly shaped icicles. With the falling snow it strangely felt like Christmas, to the extent that we sang Christmas songs all lunch, much to the amusement of the crew – no crackers or hats could be found though!

Vikram likened the feeling onboard to that of mass Stockholm syndrome minus the baddie (although the sea ice is a possible contender here). We alternate between claustrophobia and agoraphobia – the boat has become a comfort blanket and yet we still want to see land – any land – soon.

The science progresses – we’ve had some great CTD profiles recently, with the last dip showing a really strong indication of the East Greenland Current. The very low salinity and temperatures show that the sea could freeze quickly and soon – another reason for skirting round the ice and not trying to wend our way through it. For more extensive explanations of what we’ve found, with diagrams, see Emily’s blogs. The sea ice movements, for all the wasted sailing time it caused, have really shown the quick reaction times to prevailing winds, tides and Ekman pumping, and the fluctuating nature of the sea ice extent. I’m not sure how many more CTD dips the rest of the intrepid company will tolerate though…there have been mutterings of us accompanying out instruments into the deep depths, as the boat tends to swing more wildly as we try to hold position with our nose into the wind! We haven’t told them about doing a cross section across Denmark Straits yet!!!!

Tags: Carol Cotterill