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