Arctic Fast Ice Under the Mid- Autumn Moon - Expedition part 6

September 12, 2011

Today was a reminder of why you need to be flexible on Arctic cruises like these. The plan had been to zodiac cruise around large icebergs in the area of Rypefjord however overnight there was a strong freeze and fast ice prevented us from entering the cruise area. Instead we landed for a tundra walk and a perimeter was set for us. You could join the “survival of the fittest" hike to the top of the hill or meander along the edge of the tundra and beach.

Greenland Tundra

As the hikers gathered into their group I began my slow meander on the tundra. From the small sandy beach, we made our way up to the tundra area where water had eroded the cliff's edge.

On the hillside was a herd of musk ox – as Frank put it, “closer to Venus than to us”. There were Arctic fox tracks along the shore, evidence of geese scat, the long course guard hairs from the musk ox. Together with colorful rocks it created an abstract picture in the pink rippled sand (color from Feldspar according to Norman our geologist).

Pink sand resized 600

One lone glaucous gull took flight and flew overhead a straggler that had yet to fly south.

glaucous gull taking flight resized 600

 Small pools of fresh water had frozen into intricate patterns of white crystal.

crystal pattern resized 600

Again, the amazing thing about this landing was silence and the sound of the ice. As I stood along the shore I could hear the ice covered water hum almost like a swarm of bees. Then there was  a cracking and a loud crash like the sound of a glacier calving but it was the ice moving, sliding and scraping up onto the shore from the wake created by the zodiacs as they moved between the ship and shore. Even though the water had a layer of ice an inch thick the sun was warm, and it was good to sit quietly, listen to the ice, and take in Eielson Glacier at the end of the fjord.

 fast ice resized 600

After lunch the ship approached within 1.4 nautical miles of the glacier’s face. Finally we turned and began a long slow ship cruise to our destination for tomorrow (Helka Havn). Our afternoon was filled with sun, massive glaciers, and incredible rock formations on both sides of the ship.

 moon and mount resized 600

In the evening we were treated to a Chinese banquet in honor of the Mid Autumn Moon Celebration. After dinner the students presented a program of Kung Fu hip hop, a dramatization of the Mid Autumn Moon Story, and a song. They created the program themselves and had been rehearsing late at night in the mudroom and other places around the ship. After the rousing applauds from the audience, the students passed out moon cake and mingled with the other passengers.

arctic 6-resized-600

Journal page by Clara Fung

The evening ended with the most spectacular Aurora display so far! Dancing, waving, undulating bands of color filled the sky dwarfing the full moon as though Chang'e the moon goddess of the student’s story had joined the celebration herself. I could hear the oohs and aahs of the passengers around me as they tried to capture the splendor with their cameras. Tonight I left my camera in my cabin and experienced the full impact of the light’s dance. The bands of color stretched and filled the entire sky, and the small rectangular view finder couldn't frame this image. Just like stopping and listening to the silence, it is important to remember to put the camera down every so often and drink fully from the experience before you.

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Blog post by Sharon Keating