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!

 

 

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3 Responses
  1. Jessica says:

    That is AMAZING!! Polar bear sign?! Scary!! And sooo glad they were being watched over. What an incredible experience!

  2. Jon says:

    I love my son’s taste for adventure. Yes, yes, always say “yes” when life hands you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! So glad he chose to go.

    I got to fly my aircraft above the Arctic Circle. But to sail it? WOW!!! No comparison!

  3. janey says:

    His pictures are amazing!!! Photography skills are awesome.

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