Friday, August 28, 2009

Isjorden, Svalbard, Norway

Somehow, I hoped this year it would be different. We all managed to get here in one piece and nobody had thrown a punch yet, so that's a good start.

But provisioning for six souls on an arctic expedition? Three meals a day times twenty days. Enough food at least to avoid the Donner dinner party.


It's surprisingly hard to guess what all that entails, so we attacked the only food market in Longyearbyen like starving and well-funded refugees, hoarding piles of meat and pasta, frozen fish and fresh cheese and loaf after loaf of bread. We formed a small shopping cart parade by the end of it, and were $2500 the poorer for our efforts.

We had boxes filled with pasta, another with chunks of Jarlsburg, and pretty much an entire cow, frozen and processed into sausages, fillets, chops and luncheon meats. We've already decided the single pack of diced ham will be the final meal should we find ourselves drifting lost and doomed in the pack ice. The survivors shivering and starved, allowing one small chip of diced ham to dissolve on their tongue each day...

The liquor shopping is only slightly more proscribed, and that more by state alcohol rules than common sense. I splurge on a fifth of Glenlivet, some girlie Bailey's, half a dozen bottles of red wine and a case of Heineken. I'm not at all sure what I'll drink the second week though.

We pile all the food, then case after case of our gear onto the Heinrich's steel-hulled yacht. The boat settles visibly in the water and seems to sigh with the burden of it all.

We have one final burger and beer on shore and loiter back to the harbor, sleepy in the warm evening sun. Pulling away from the harbor, we set sail without fanfare. A group of five photographers, all American save Fanus who's more fun than any of us and Heinrich who's the only one who knows what he's doing. We're all guys and there are no discernible prima-donas or psychopaths among us.

On the other hand, as Fanus points out, if you can't figure out who the asshole on the boat is, that's because it's you.


By the time we depart, I'm sore and exhausted and wander off to my bunk to rest my eyes. I sleep fitfully most the way through the calm, sunny evening voyage. I toss and turn with back and leg pain, feeling miserable and overwhelmed and anxious. At one point, it settles on me like a thick dread that I don't want to be here. But there's no turning back, and when I wake at four, the pain is still with me, but most of the dread has gone.

The morning sun is shining on barren, ragged mountains covered with glacial ice and last winter's snows, all mirrored in the glassy calm fjord. I put on water for coffee, light the stove and wait for the fun to begin.

August 1, 2009 - Isfjorden, Spitsbergen Island

4 comments:

Photobby said...

I'm very curious as to what exactly you are doing... cause I know you take pictures...

As usual I love your short entry. I'm hoping for some kind of regular entry as you learn the nuances of preparing homo sapiens for consumption. (Side note- you look to be the thinnest guy there, that's a good thing, if you run low on food. Not much meat on your bones)

-Cheers (and enjoy the Glenlivet!)

Paul Souders said...

Thanks for the note. I was probably the skinniest, but that only means I'm going to lose in a fight.

There wasn't any hope of internet connection on the boat while in Svalbard, so the blog is actually spooling out a few weeks after it happened. New entries every two days or so.

As it is, I'm back at the airport in Seattle bound for a month in Kenya. Not sure if I'll be able to blog from there either...

As to the question what I'm doing...

That's a great question. My mom, girlfriend and creditors are all asking the same thing.

Photobby said...

Thanks for the update! At least I'll be able to follow you in Iceland, when you are in Africa. Odd world this.

If you ever figure out a good answer to the last bit, let me know. I'll happily steal it for my mom, wife and creditors....

Dev Wijewardane said...

looking forward to your pics of Kenya!