||80°05.9’N / 013°11.0’E
The morning starts unusually late: the wake-up call, performed by Philip, sounds a whole half-hour later than usual. Last night, shortly after reaching the pack ice, we had a wonderful opportunity to observe a polar bear devouring the carcass of a seal it had killed. The observation started around midnight, so we went to sleep well past 1 AM.
Today is an ice day! No landings on the shore, no Zodiac cruises, only contemplating the eternal ice and spending time on the open decks of the ship, slowly making its way through drifting ice floes. The main task is to find a polar bear! But that, as they say, is an ambitious task. Mostly, the main idea of our presence in the pack ice is to comprehend the silent beauty of the white, cold silence.
There is a dense fog. The Plancius moves forward slowly, pushing the ice floes aside, while some of us stand at the bow of the ship with cameras and binoculars at the ready. And then – boom! – the fog dissipates. Sunlight floods everything around, as far as the eye can see – white ice floes everywhere, stretching to the horizon. Immediately, there is a need to put on sunglasses; everything is just too bright.
Arctic fulmars fly around, bearded seals and ringed seals lie here and there, looking at us in surprise. The wind has completely subsided, and the usually cold northern sun starts to scorch noticeably.
So, an hour passes, two hours, and we keep staring at this unusual landscape for those living in temperate latitudes, searching for the white, furry predator.
Lunchtime arrives, but we still don't disperse. We take turns having lunch, just in case we miss the sudden appearance of a bear. But no, it's still only seals and Kittiwakes.
Evening comes. The sun, without any intention of setting below the horizon, just descends slightly. The light becomes softer and less contrasting. At 6:30 PM, we are invited to the observatory lounge for a daily recap. Philip announces plans for tomorrow, Annelou tells us about the formation of sea ice, and Sasha and Andy talk about belugas.
Dinner is listed on the program as a special Arctic dinner. We are invited to the aft of the third deck, where a real barbecue awaits us! What a surprise! Tables are set up there as well, so while sitting at them, we can glance at the icy sea with one eye just in case the furry beast appears after all.
Closer to nine o'clock in the evening, fog starts to thicken, as if a curtain is descending in the theatre of Arctic nature. Not today, my friends, not today. There will be more days, more opportunities.
A wonderful, unhurried, harmonious day of contemplation! To experience the pack ice is to feel a unique, incomparable sense of tranquillity and witness the power and grandeur of the Arctic first-hand.