||72°08.4’N / 023°16.5’W
Today we awoke to the sound of crunching ice. We were approaching Antarctic Havn, at the mouth of Kong Oscar Fjord and our intended landing site for this morning. The sea was still and grey between the floes and the sky was cloud-covered. Sea ice is beautiful, but inconvenient for Plancius; our trusty ship can navigate successfully (if slowly and carefully) through ice that is not packed together too tightly by wind and current, but it takes time. The sensible decision was made by the captain and Rinie that it would be unwise to linger here and devote significant time and effort to an attempted landing. As the latest sea ice charts show considerably more and thicker ice lying along the route to Scoresby Sund, the sooner we got underway, the better. So we tore up the daily programme and wrote a new one, in which gazing at sea ice and listening to lectures took priority.
Around 9.30 am we were surprised and delighted to see that it was snowing outside – huge, thick flakes were rapidly settling on railings, benches and people. All of a sudden this group of mature, well-travelled adults was behaving like kids – stealing someone’s polar bear toy and building it a den/igloo just outside the Lounge, scraping together enough snow to make snowballs…we certainly belong to the generation that grew up playing outside, not glued to a computer screen!
Once the first excitement was over, Victoria began her talk, entitled ‘Three amazing Greenland explorers: Kane, Nansen and Peary’. These three men all had a strong connection with Greenland, though only Nansen (Norwegian) was really interested in exploring the country for its own sake (he made the first ever crossing of the Greenland icecap with a small group, in 1888). Both Kane (1853) and Peary (1891 – 1909) used Greenland as a stepping stone in their efforts to conquer the North Pole. Kane probably didn’t get further north than about 79°30’, though he was the first to set eyes on the huge Humboldt glacier and realise how ice could have shaped the landscape during the Ice Ages. As for Robert Peary, we will never know for sure if he reached the North Pole or not; many books have been written for and against him. But the tales of polar explorers’ exploits, how they fought fierce seas, pack ice, intense cold, polar bear attack and starvation continue to fascinate us, whatever their technical achievements. So many men lost their lives trying to conquer the icy north.
There was just time before lunch to indulge in a bit of retail therapy at reception. Suddenly, a shop full of polar souvenirs appeared out of nowhere! There was quite a scramble to examine all of the goodies on display and of course, since we don’t have to settle our bills until the end of the trip, it hardly felt as if we were spending money at all…
By lunchtime Plancius was out of the fjord in the open sea and - for the first time in our voyage - rolling a little. There was still a lot of sea ice and our bridge officers were forced to sail a long way round a big tongue of sea ice at one point – so this morning’s decision was wise.
In the afternoon, James gave a presentation entitled 'Polar Climate Crisis', which was all about the changing climate in Antarctica and the Arctic and what the future might hold – depressing stuff, but a subject all of us need to think about in our changing world.
Later on – at the start of a two-hour ‘Happy Hour’ at the bar - Katja and Sandra chaired a polar quiz, with a bottle of champagne as the prize. Passengers met this surprise activity with much enthusiasm, though on occasion attempted to argue over the correct answer, forgetting that ‘the judges’ decision is final’! Ice, polar bears, geology, history and trivia all featured in the questions the expedition staff had come up with.
Happy hour continued on into our Recap & Briefing, at which Barbara gave us an account of the major bird sightings we have had/can expect to have and Sandra talked about how the places we visit got their names. Rinie also took this opportunity to update us on our progress towards Scoresby Sund (we are back on schedule), and then it was time for another enjoyable dinner.