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Sailing the Arctic
Chris got so many amazing photos of the icy summer wonderland of Svalbard that I couldn’t let the story rest without including just a FEW more photos of the gorgeous scenery from his trip.
Taken at 3am.

 

 

Waaaaay up north

When someone asks if you want to be part of the crew on a sailboat to go hunting for icebergs in the Arctic Ocean, you say “yes”. Because really, that’s how all great adventures start.

 

This particular adventure for Chris happened to start when a friend of ours from church was looking for some assistants to accompany him on a 6-day trip up to the Svalbard islands to sail into the Arctic Ocean to collect iceberg core samples for a business venture. Basically, he’s creating a new brand of über-premium bottled water made from North Pole icebergs, called Svalbardi (apparently there is a really good market for that sort of thing. Who knew?) and he needed some able-bodied crew to come along and help him share the costs of the boat and aid in collecting iceberg core samples for purity testing.

 

When Chris heard the words “sailing” and “Arctic Ocean”, he immediately wanted in. Then he thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Then he thought maybe it was a great idea. Then he thought it was too expensive. Then he thought it was priceless. The timing of the trip was pretty terrible, what with it starting just after we got back from our trip to the States and overlapping a visit from his family at the end. And yeah… it was money we weren’t really planning to spend. But you know, there are always plenty of reasons NOT to do something and sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and say “yes” when life hands you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For us, we decided that 60 years from now the story of hunting icebergs in the Arctic is going to be worth all the money spent on the trip and more so Chris accepted and off he flew to Svalbard to catch his boat to the Arctic Ocean for 6 days.

 

Mmm…whale, reindeer and seal for dinner. Viking food.

 

Dead seal.

 

Alive seal.

 

Setting sail.

 

The total crew ended up being Chris, Jamal (owner of Svalbardi water) and the sailboat captain. The captain was pretty happy Chris was a certified Day Skipper with the RYA and Chris was pretty happy that he therefore got to do a lot of the sailing. And Jamal was pretty happy that he had someone to help out with the icebergs, because apparently it was a lot more work than expected to hunt down the ‘bergs. Happiness all around :)

 

(Unfortunately, Chris didn’t get any photos with himself in them, so the rest of the photos will include a lot with the captain and Jamal. We’re going to work on this in the future ;) But know that he was actually there as the man behind the lens. )

 

The weather was as good as could be expected (yes, it was July but you sure wouldn’t know it based on their outfits!) They had some gorgeous clear days and some horrible days with 20ft swells and accompanying seasickness. All in a week’s work for a sailor.

 

One of the experiences Chris talked about a lot when he got home was hearing the icebergs calve from the glaciers. All would be eerily silent except for the sound of the waves against the boat and then they would hear a huge thunderous CRACK. If they were close enough, they would whip their heads around towards the sound and catch the sight of glacier ice crashing down into the water. Sometimes they would sit and listen to what sounded like a thunderstorm in the middle of a clear day as iceberg after iceberg broke off and fell into the sea.

 

He also had a bit of a harrowing experience involving a capsizing iceberg. To get the core samples, Chris and Jamal would take a dingy from the main sailboat with all their equipment, sidle up to the iceberg and anchor the dingy tightly onto it with ice hooks and rope. They had just tied themselves off to one particular iceberg when Jamal realized they were missing a part for their core borer. They untied themselves, leaving the ice hooks in the iceberg to await their return with the needed part. Once they got back to the sailboat, however, they realized that the part they needed was actually attached to the core borer all along. No sooner had they turned to head back to the iceberg when a huge chunk of ice broke off from the iceberg beneath the water line and the entire iceberg heaved up and over onto its side before eventually righting itself again and crashing back down into the water. The Man Upstairs was most definitely watching out for them that day because if they hadn’t had gone back for the “missing” part they and the dingy would have been pulled under the frigid water as the iceberg tilted. They didn’t anchor themselves to any more icebergs after that.

 

“Iceberg right ahead!”
The core sample.
Bagged and tagged and now on to the next ‘berg. 

 

Most unfortunately, they didn’t get to see any whales or polar bears out in the wild (I was REALLY hoping Chris would get to see some wild orcas) but they did see a lot of seals, birds, walruses and puffins!
wpid-Photo-20150214105618958.jpg
One of the really cool things about being that far north in the middle of the summer was getting to experience the midnight sun. The sun never sets up there during that time of year. The two photos just above ^^ were both taken around 2am!

 

This sign was as serious as a heart attack…
And of course, they got to do a lot of sailing, which Chris loved. When I asked him what were some of the coolest memories he has of the trip he said, “Definitely getting to sail above the Arctic Circle. We went above the 79th parallel!”

 

Definitely an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

 

 

A summer jaunt to Vegas

One of our best friends, Julie, got married in July so of course we had to fly home for the big day! I know.. Vegas in the middle of summer! Crazy! We hadn’t been home to Vegas at the height of summer for a while and we were a little worried that we’ve gone soft in the colder weather of Norway, but much to our pleasure we discovered we could still handle the heat as well as anybody does in Vegas! Which, yes, basically means we lived by the pool. I think we freaked out my parents a little bit when, during the first three days, we lounged around in a next-to-vegetative stupor with little motivation to do anything besides sit quietly and zone out. Between Chris’ busy travel schedule and all the crazy hours I’d been putting into Slikkepotten… we were beat and doing absolutely NOTHING for a few days felt more wonderful that I could possibly describe! Does that mean we are getting old???

 

If it does, I don’t really care, because we sure needed it!

Julie was the last of our little childhood BFF trio to enter into holy matrimony, so of course we had to celebrate with a ladies’ night out on the town. (And when you are Mormon Vegas locals, that doesn’t mean clubbing and yard-long margaritas. It means ginormous and decadent ice cream sundaes at The Sugar Factory. Viva Las Vegas!)

And of course, lots of sexy underwear for Julie to unwrap, because that’s just the kind of friends we are. Ooooo baby!
Our waiter was clearly a pro at taking photos…
Julie was simply radiant on her wedding day! This was the first wedding between the three of us that we were all able to attend and it was very special indeed.
Very special…
And cute pregnant Jessica gave birth to the firstborn of the bunch just over 2 days later! I feel like it was a big weekend for our little group of friends :)

 

Menorca Photo Challenge by Chris

In May, Chris went to Menorca, Spain for 2 1/2 weeks for a work exercise. Seriously… he gets to go to all the cool places :)

He’ll laugh at me for writing that, because in reality yes, he gets to go to some pretty awesome places, but he also works 10-12 hours a day while he’s there and often only gets to sightsee at night, if at all. Fortunately, he had a few days in Menorca where he got a chance to explore in daylight and even got to go to the beach after work once!

Before he left, I slipped a little Menorca Photo Challenge into his suitcase, just for a bit of fun :)

So here’s Spain according to Chris’ Menorca Photo Challenge:

 

1) Your hotel room

2) Top 3 things you ate

Yes, there are only 2. He forgot to take pictures while he was eating too many times :)

3) A church

4) A self-portrait at work

5) Clouds

6) Something touristy

7) Something you do every day

8) The beach

9) The ocean

10) A boat

11) Something very Spanish

12) A plant

13) Architecture

14) Something colorful

15) Night

 

Riga Central Market

Unfortunately, even though I was on a vacation in Latvia, Chris still had to work. And doubly unfortunately, he had to work really long hours this trip. He usually didn’t get off the job until after 7:00 every night (well after dark), just in time for dinner and relaxing before bed. He got one unexpected free day right at the end of the trip, but I had already caught my flight home. Schedules were definitely out of sync this trip.

Naturally, we had to do all of our sight-seeing separately.  While I was out exploring during the day, I kept notes for him and made a list of all the things for him to do and try on his one day off before his flight home. So at least we got to see and experience the same things, even if not together (all the photos from the Riga posts are a combination of our different touring days.)

 

On the very TOP of my list was the Riga Central Market.

I like visiting open-air food markets wherever we go, and before I went I pictured this would be the same ol’-same-ol’, but NO! It was the biggest food market I’ve ever seen! It was built in the 1920s out of old German zeppelin hangars from World War I, which were apparently MASSIVE!  They only used the tops of the hangars in the construction and they were still huge. 5 full zeppelin hangars of food heaven, plus a maze of outdoor stalls :)

 

 

Each of the 5 pavilions specializes in its own type of food: Dairy, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, and Gastronomy (dry goods).

 

After walking through the meat pavilion, I have come to the conclusion that we Americans are way too distanced from our food. We rarely see what actual meat looks like before it is butchered and wrapped into perfect little sealed packages. The butchers in the meat pavilion were hauling whole, skinned pig and cow carcasses around through the crowds, suspending their products on giant meat hooks, and cleaving bones on large wooden blocks right in front of the customers. It wasn’t necessarily pretty (and was very questionably sanitary), but you certainly knew exactly where your food was coming from!
Ahhh! It’s looking at me!

 

 

And of course, I can’t talk about all this cool food without talking about my favorite Latvian food: Pelmenis.
They are basically the Latvian version of pierogis, aka little Eastern European raviolis stuffed with amazingness and topped with sour cream. They were everywhere! All of the grocery stores I went to had entire freezer sections dedicated to bags and bags of pelmenis of every flavor imaginable. Our friend James, who served his LDS mission in Latvia, recommended Pelmeni XL, a serve-yourself pelmeni bar, and I ate lunch there almost every day. I couldn’t get enough!
Especially of the fried ones. Oh man. Eating pelmenis was definitely on Chris’ to-do list along with the Riga market for his free day!

 

It’s probably a good thing they don’t have these in Norway…

 

 

 

Category: Adventures, Food, Travel  Tags: ,  2 Comments