Thursday, October 4, 2018
Slight wind, around 30ºF
Up again around 6:30am. Crawled up the steep wooden steps to the lounge for coffee and take a trip out onto deck to see what changed over night. We’d heard that the anchor was slipping, so they moved the ship to a new anchor point.. A current was coming off of the glacier behind the ship, and it was pushing us towards the peninsula, Hamnodden, we explored yesterday - towards the bay full of ice that it had captured flowing off of the glacier itself.
It seemed the night before that the bay was small-ish. But in reality, it was vast. Distances here are surreal. Everything is so large that the space totally plays tricks with the mind. I looked out across the ship’s deck, wind stinging through my pajama pants and the hand holding my coffee cup starting to freeze. The wind made it feel colder than the actual temperature. At first, I couldn’t find my bearings. Where were we? Where had we been yesterday? I looked over to my left, and I could see the glacier across from Hamnodden (now much larger). I looked to my right, and I could barely see the land from yesterday. That must be it, but it looked at least a mile away. I couldn’t make out any of the details. I couldn’t see the trapper’s hanging rack or the trapped ice that reminded me of pepperoni, just the saw-toothed mountains in the distance that the day before had cloaked in the pink wash of sunset.
After breakfast, we set off for a shore excursion that consisted of a short hike plus a stationary landing at a dead glacier. Our landing point towards the glacier did not look far away, but when we saw the first zodiac on land it was tiny. We were still so far from the adjacent glacier.
We boarded the zodiacs and gathered on shore. After everyone was on land, we trekked into the rolling landscape of the moraine alongside a mostly frozen stream and passed a frozen waterfall.
We after maybe 15 minutes, we came to the dead glacier. This photo looks up at the mountains above the bay of Fridtjovhamna at the edge of a dead glacier (to the right, part of the glacier Fridtjovbreen). A Dead Glacier is a meteorological term for a glacier that has stopped moving because it has either been separated from the rest of the glacier or has diminished in accumulation. Dead glaciers are usually covered by moraine. You can see in this photo how rocky the edges of these glaciers are. When they drag across the ground, they scrape up dirt and rocks that get frozen into the ice. Then, when the glacier retreats, the rocks get left in piles of debris.
We hiked a few minutes longer and came to a large arch in the ice. It created an echoing cavern over the stream we’d followed. The form reminded me of the impressive rock formations in Utah - solid forms eroded over time. This timeline slightly sped up from that of the red rocks of Arches, but to us the time seemed to stand still while we watched for a few moments in silence.
We hiked back from the arch and set up a stationary landing spot to sit, photograph, or make work. I found an indent in the dead glacier covered with fresh snow that looked welcoming, so I decided to take a nap on the rocky ice. (This became one of my favorite activities to do on landings.) After an hour or two, we hiked back down the stream and boarded Antigua for lunch and to move to van Keulenhamna.
On the way, we passed incredible formations in the land. It looks as if some of the rocks in Svalbard were picked up, crumpled like paper, and dropped back down into the water. Not having any trees or foliage of any kind gives you a better view of our evolving planet. Many times on this trip I realized that I’ve been thinking about geologic time as having mostly happened in the past. But, changes happen around us - with us - every day. We are a part of geologic time, embedded within it.
This activity is made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) through a grant from The McKnight Foundation.