We’ve been heading south along the east coast of Baffin Island for the last 24 hours, covering a distance of 200 miles. When the boat is moving we all calm down, get time to think about what we experienced so far, write blogs, read a book and so on. Our day is organized around our individual watch times. Every two hours the watch team changes. A team consists of a watch captain and two young explorers, who not only need to look out for rocks and ice bergs but also for whales, polar bears and seals.
Today Rici and me were on watch at 2 am. Usually that’s the worst one, because you only get one or two hours of sleep before the watch and only three four hours after the watch. But this time it was different. When we got up for the watch green northern lights, called aurora borealis, covered the whole sky. It has always been a dream of ours to see those magical lights, dancing across the sky. We all stood outside looking at those lights created by solar wind, reflecting light along the magnetic field.
After a few hours of sleep I suddenly woke up, but didn’t know the reason for it. A second later I flew to the one side of my mat and nearly fell out of my bed. The wind increased to 40 knots as the waves grew higher. When we looked out of the windows we couldn’t even see the horizon. The waves rolled over the bow and the water splashed against the windows. I couldn’t walk without holding myself on the walls. I was glad to know that PANGAEA has seen worse weather than this.
Day 18: Blog by Henko Roukema 01-09-2011
Last night was simply extraordinary as I saw the Aurora lights while it was my turn to be on watch! Seeing the lights dance around as if it’s coming down towards you, I could not help but wonder what the people of long ago thought when they saw these strange lights. The night sky was spectacular with the stars shining in all its glory, shooting stars, satellites, with no wind; it was a perfect night for star gazing! It was quit a moving experience to see the Northern lights, never in my life would I have thought that could be here in the arctic exploring this unique area with the legendary Mike Horn himself, and without his life long list of exploration and adventure it could never be possible.
After the watch I was relieved to be able to go to bed but also not wanting to do so much with the performance the lights was putting up above in the sky! This morning I was suddenly awoken when I was almost thrown out of by bed by the rolling boat! Being confused I got up and started walking towards the pilot house, all of a sudden I felt the boat starting to roll again with nothing to hold on to it sent me flying over the endless amount of duffel bags in the garage, being wiser in my second attempt I was stunned by the gale force wind and the swell pushing the boat high in the air and then crushing down to only lifted up by the next wave! The watch was a bit more difficult with the boat at such an angle because the wind and swell was hitting us directly from the starboard side; at times we were hanging by just our grip on the safety handles, feet slipping and sliding desperately to get a grip. With the wind blowing up to 49 knots it was fascinating that the Pangaea could just continue on its course! While other vessels not so equipped to handle extreme conditions would be running scared with the swell and wind!
Relieved that the watch was finished and a bit sea sick, I went back to sleep as tomorrow we are going on our last excursion of the expedition, a hike over the island , which will take the whole day if all goes well.
Reflecting back on this trip is difficult with all the excitement of the previous 18 days all melting together as one great experience I dread the fact of leaving such a place that has crept so deep into my heart after such a short time and not being able to see everyone from the team everyday. All the lessons we have learned will stay with us forever and as they say life is built up by the experiences you have and that each experience leaves a trace in your brain that creates who you are! This expedition is certainly a life changing experience that I will never forget! This is after all just the beginning! Most people live life but they don’t live it to the fullest!
Blog written by Zuzanna
A long time ago people and the animals spoke the same language. It was believed that specific elders of the Inuit community held the ability to turn into large seals. Seals could then transform into wolves, polar bears or birds.
An animal would only offer itself to the hunter if it was treated with proper respect. The success of the hunt, and family’s survival in the same time, fully depended on the animal.
Who knows? Maybe it’s because of the respect that we have for our surrounding environment that allowed the nature to reveal its beauty to us over the last two days? Not only did we see a seal resting on a piece of floating ice, but also two polar bear families: mother with cubs climbing up the moraine. We had a closer look at the plants of tundra and discovered that beneath our feet lies a new world. A world filled with colors and tiny insects, new scents and unique textures.
Even in the Arctic the Nature is very diverse, but you realize that only when experience different places: flat planes covered with caribou grass, steep slopes of glaciers or… canyons of waterfalls. One of these canyons was exactly where we went for a 2-day long trip. Massive pieces of ice hung above the falling water, strong enough to carve a valley and move giant rocks just to the shore. This is when you understand there is not only one grey, there is not only one blue or only one green. Colors play with the surroundings and the sunset lights bring out the line of the horizon and change the hostile landscape into a miraculous place.
By early evening we reached the place that we turned into our shelter. This time we didn’t take any tents, wanting to spend the night under the naked sky. When I woke up and saw the shining stars above me, I felt as if the darkness was allowing spots of light through its night blanket and they were there, shining just for me.
And now we’re on the boat again, sailing down south. The dusk has fallen and the world is enclosed in a cover of darkness, as it is happening for millions of years. Unexpected, hundreds of rays of surreal light decorated the sky, leaving green and white traces on the firmament. The northern lights, Aurora! Someone is trying to dust off the sky, star powder surrounds us exposing the uniqueness of the Arctic. I feel like I’ve never seen sky before. The world is beautiful and life is just a wonder.