2004 Expedition Blog - Day 15

Date:

Friday, 24 September 2004, 06:15 (CF2 time)

From:

Dan Harvey

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
Dancing with the Devil
Attachments: 2 images
Leaving Bear Island shrouded in mist, heading into the Devils Dancefloor Leaving Bear Island shrouded in mist, heading into the Devils Dancefloor

Woken early by David Buckland - I say 'woken' but don't think that anyone can say that they really slept. The waves continually pounding this small vessel, just trying to get out of bed and put one's clothes on is a dangerous event - let alone standing and walking. The floor moves from a 45 degree angle back slightly then suddenly over again. Waiting the right moment you can just about make it from one safe footing and handle to another. It's like a peculiar dance as you slip, rush, wait, jump and slide your way around the ship at very odd angles. The wind is up and the swell is immense - although for the ships' crew this is what they call 'normal' and the captain insists is good as we can go faster!

Having finally managed to but on my layers of waterproof clothes, forced the door open against gravity, I fall out on the deck grabbing at the knotted rope now strung across from one side to another, wind and spray in my face. In the darkness David, Sean, Kathy and Maaike seem calm and relaxed having earlier taken down most of the sails - we are now sailing on the schooner sail and jib only, but still managing to cut along at 9 to 10 knots, The wind is up - force 7. Climbing up to the starboard side I am passed a harness and strap myself in. It actually feels safer outside than in.

Steering the ship is the best place to be - at least you get an idea of how the boat can move and handle its self in these waves as they break over the bow - making the ships large brass bell ring. The high side of the ship seems to be 15 foot above the water at times, with the waves towering higher, whilst the other at times is submerged - water gushing over the hand rail, but luckily out again through the sluices. Above, in the lightening sky, a vague green glow can be seen through the low clouds, swirling and snaking around - the northern lights, over the roar of the sea and wind, Max's wind flutes occasionally vibrate and sing making an eerily sound. It is a frightening, magical, mystical world, but one that is truly 'real' in every way!

Thirteen hours more and we'll be calm, back in the fiords of Norway, then to Tromsø and finally the flight back to London. It will be so strange and difficult to re-integrate back into our so-called 'normal' lives again!

Dan Harvey

Date:

Friday, 24 September 2004, 16.55 (CF2 time)

From:

David Buckland

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
Daily blog post, Friday 24 September 2004
Attachments: 2 images
Crew on deck for their sailing watch as we sail across the Barents Sea Crew on deck for their sailing watch as we sail across the Barents Sea

12am and we leave Bear Island and pitch into the wild Barents Sea, 250 miles until we reach the Norwegian coast*, East North East force 7, veering Easterly force 6. It will be bumpy.

Our watch routine sets in and those still on two feet, fairly vertical, join the crew to set sails, steer and generally make the boat go. Waves are around 4m height and toss the Noorderlicht with ease, a 3 minute thrill ride at Alton Towers pales into insignificance compared to this 48 hour extravaganza.

4am and I start my watch with Sean (my son) and Emily (our plucky 13 year old student). Phil, from the last watch, is driving the boat like a train, all the sails are up and the lee gunnels is underwater - time to shorten sail in the increasing wind. A pitch black 1 hour battle commences with the elements. Gert is right on the end of the bow sprit fighting to bring in the jib as we lower from the deck, then it's the turn of the main, a big three man job - did I mention its cold and raining and very extreme.

Eventually all is calmish (a very relative term) and we plough on at 8 knots bouncing in a part of the sea that is well named as 'The Devils Dancefloor'. No northern lights tonight, no early dawn either** as we head south. Altogether not much pleasure to be had and I am pleased to get to the end of my watch and fall into my 40 degree bunk.

I wake for lunch, the sun finally breaks through and we are making great progress hoping to reach the Norwegian coast and calm by nightfall. Everyone is on deck frolicking in the sun, an exuberance of manic pleasure or more possibly relief as it now looks highly likely that we will indeed reach land again. We have not seen a single vessel except for the factory ships around Bear Island, underlining how far north we are, and how few people get to sail these seas.

Tonight, once we enter the calm of the fjord, it will be night and now that the skies are clear we should a wonderful display of the Northern Lights - it will be well earned!

David Buckland

*During the last 5 days we've sailed from the 80th parallel, south to the 70th parallel. If we'd sailed north instead we'd be at the North Pole by now...

**Only 48 hours ago dawn was breaking as the 6am watch started - now we're 150 nautical miles south and its breaking as the 8am watch starts - a 2 hour difference in just 2 days. The temperature has also risen in the same period from a bearable 2ºC to (an almost balmy!) 10ºC.

2004 expedition route map