Pages from the Arctic Archive

When I tell people I’m headed to the arctic, their first question is generally “why?” or “what for?”, as if going to the arctic isn’t a normal vacation, or it’s not as fun a vacation spot as the Bahamas. And to be fair, the arctic might be a little bit extreme for a traditional vacation. For one, there are no hotels really, so we stay on a boat; a floating hotel so to speak. For another, the focus is really on the ice and wildlife. No shopping or sandy beaches to speak of. For another, there’s obviously no cell service or Wi-Fi up here. And so for 10 days, I am fully disconnected from the world. Have I told everyone I needed to that I will be unreachable? Almost definitely not. Am I concerned about the number of emails or notifications I’m going to receive upon my return? Ehhhhhh…. Let’s not think about that!

Let’s think instead, about the amazing opportunity before me. No work to distract my workaholic brain from working, so all I’m left with is writing for this blog. Perhaps I’ll write enough to make up for all the posts I’ve missed this year. No emails to check, no phone calls to make, no presentations to write. The amount of nothingness and disconnectedness is almost scary.

It’s been only 1 day on this boat, and so far, we’ve had a bearded seal come right up to our little boat. We’ve seen reindeer and dolphins and whales and a glacier calving and many a bird. We have walruses and perhaps polar bears to look forward to. There is a non zero chance of seeing a narwhal, although it’s near an impossibility. And of course, a whole sunset and sunrise within a couple minutes because at this time of year, there is no darkness.

And it’s cold up here. Not that that should be surprising, but it’s so different from the LA heat, from the sweltering summer that I just barely survived. I get to pull out all my old Chicago gear: the gloves, the hats, the earmuffs, the scarves, the coats, and be pleased my hoarding tendencies have once again paid off.

So here we go. The ship we’re on is the Kinfish, an ex research vessel turned 12 passenger boat that rocks when it sails, that used to be a scientific expedition ship, and once carried out environmental explorations. And is now for us, the tourists who are here to see the Arctic ice before it completely melts away. And despite all it took for us to travel here, our footprint here is incredibly small. Water is made on the ship. There are no human settlements here for us to visit; we leave the land as we find it. All our expeditions revolve around the changing climate and the history of human involvement. And so far away from all other civilization, from the constant connectivity that I’m used to, it’s almost so lonely here. So hopelessly lonely, and so heartachingly beautiful.