Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Clearing skies, around 30ºF
I awoke around 6:30 again. Coffee, Some time on the deck. Then, we ate breakfast in Ymerbukta where we had a landing the previous day and suited up to help raise the sails to move south to Bellsund.
The captain started the engines, and we turned back out to Isfjorden and headed west - out to sea. Once we got out of the fjord, however, there wasn’t any wind so the engines stayed on. We sailed most of the day and arrived at Hamnodden (in Bellsund) around 5:00pm for a shore excursion.
I felt like I was settling in to the pace of the ship and the routine of each day: Climb the steep steps from the cabins to the lounge for coffee, Get a glimpse of the morning on deck while still in my pajamas. Breakfast. Gather to hear the initial plans for the day. Race back down the steep steps to the cabins to suit up in winter gear. Climb back up the stairs. Lace up the boots. Tug on the overshoes over the boots. Don’t forget the life jacket #5 and to sign out on the clipboard before getting in the zodiac.
We anchored near a thin L-shaped strip of land that housed a drying rack for seal pelts. On an adjacent piece of land sat a tiny trapper hut. The sun was setting to the left of Antigua, and it illuminated the mountains a salmon-pink pale-orange. I found a spine bone of a seal and a broken (but mostly still intact) clam or oyster. There was a bit of trash on the beach where we boarded the zodiac, so someone went back to the boat for a bag (almost human-sized) so we could bring it back with us.
Some small mosses dotted the rocks here that were larger than any other plant life we’d seen so far. Red moss with flowers and various colors of lichens splashed across the ground. How could they withstand such a harsh environment? Plant life here seems so improbable.
We came back to Antigua for dinner, and I was happy to be feeling well - not seasick, not stuffy with a cold. Just happy. A spread of pumpkin soup, chicken, rice pilaf, and a legendary chocolate terrine made me realize that I’m really starting to love chef Piet’s cooking. And, I really don’t think I’m the only one who starts thinking about lunch and dinner way before it’s time to eat.
After dinner, I had a conversation with one of the other artists and a guide about art, dance, and Svalbard. With all of the excitement each day in what we see, it is easy for me to forget that not only are the surroundings endlessly inspiring, so are the other 38 people aboard the ship (27 artists and 11 crew).
I shuffled off to bed shortly after. Each night so far, I’ve flopped into bed early and slept hard through the night. The combination of overwhelming scenery, exploring throughout the day, and cold temperatures makes me exhausted in the best of ways.
But, I can’t figure out yet how a landscape that is almost solely a combination of rock, ice, and water - and that is nearly completely silent - can be so overstimulating. I think this duality has led me here.
This activity is made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) through a grant from The McKnight Foundation.