2004 Expedition Blog - Day 14
Thursday, 23 September 2004, 06:22 (CF2 time)
(It's A Long) 24 Hours from Tromsø
We've been doing Actual Sailing and standing Watches and everything!
After leaving the mossy clumps of Edgeøya, also known by us as 2 Bear Island for obvious reasons, we set sail for Bear Island. Confusingly. We have been assigned a 2 hour shift twice every 24 hours; my co-watchees being Quentin, Alex the Owner of a New Island, and Simon. We share the watch with Gert , the Captain, who looks on in a benign disbelieving way. We each get the chance to steer the ship for half an hour on our watch and it has become openly competitive, in a loving way of course. The sea has been fairly rough and the temperature still around zero, so a lot of clothes are piled on for this stint.
On our last watch a huge wave hit the side of us and Quentin did a stadium-rousing slide across the bridge, despite being harnessed to the wheel. In the ensuing chaos I mistakenly considered myself able to be of some assistance and leaned forward helpfully. Another wave. I found myself flying through the air and then clinging to Quentin's boots as I also slid across and then off the bridge. Gert had to lever me up and then helped Quentin up. This drama resulted in my being harnessed to the wheel and getting to steer a little earlier than my official shift. Joy heaped upon joy.
Still more bliss in the wings. At around 2am Anna the chef pottered in announcing that some Northern Lights were visible. We dashed outside and indeed to the left of us in the now dark sky we could make out greenish edges of a giant fluxing hexagon and to the right, or East, was a glowing green rectangle; brighter at one end, so appearing like a massive single headlight. Staring a little longer and all the shapes moved, like retinal images dying and flaring. In a frenzy of sharing we ring the bell (most people are asleep) and knock on cabin doors, doing that special kind of whisper shouting "Northern LIGHTS!". Sadly by the time the others have pulled on their four sturdy layers and hat and gloves and boots et al, the coy lights have shimmied off behind some clouds and all we can make out are dim shadows. This is a disappointment for those hauled out of a cosy bed, but the earlier display had been strange and beautiful and a touching wave goodbye from the Arctic skies.