Locked in the melting sea ice, I am surrounded by white fog, white snow, gray seas. I stand watch on deck, waiting for the ice bear to emerge from the mist.
I'm feeling foggy myself from lack of sleep and painkillers. Washing down my Percocet with Glenfiddich has done nothing for my cognitive skills. I stand woozily looking out in to the half light of arctic summer. We've sailed beyond 80° North and shoved into the ice hoping for bears, but for now there is nothing but breathless calm and an utter absence of color.
I start to imagine that the ice itself has started slowly breathing.
Sounds travels far in this stillness. I can make out walrus grunts, the distant calling of geese and ducks, the whirring wing beats of passing gulls.
I imagine shapes blending with the ice, shadows emerging from the fog. But the only certain signs of life are two black snouts swimming across the bay. I grab my binoculars and stare dumbly, watching them moving silently, breathing and then quickly submerging. Finally I realize they're bearded seals, looking for a safe patch of ice to rest upon.
They slowly roll over and dive deep, disappearing into the icy gray sea as the fog rolls in.
August 3,2009 - Nordaustlandet, Svalbard