Published: August 10th 2012August 5th 2012
Off the top edge of the map....562 nautical miles from the north pole
So true to expedition cruising, our initial plans are thrown out the window. The pack ice (i.e. the sea ice that covers the north pole) is well north of Svalbard. This is where bears and walrus prefer to live, so the plan is to head towards it! It is so far north (about 80 degrees) that it doesn’t appear on most maps. This would not be a good time to discover that the world is flat, because we are about to reach the edge of it.
By the end of the day we have reached 80 degrees 50 minutes (give or take). 560 miles from the north pole. We think we are the northernmost people on the planet!
The pack ice has retreated as is normal in summer. No it’s not global warming, it just happens as the summer temperature rises. As we approach the solid ice (the ice with no water between it), the ship slows. The captain picks a path though the ice floes. Remember that the arctic is different in that it is an ocean surrounded by land, as opposed to the Antarctic, which is land surrounded by oceans. So the frozen sea here tends to
be flat and at the edge of the completely frozen sea is an area of broken ice floes with channels between them.
We take the zodiacs out into the ice, and cruise around for an hour and a half. It is about zero degrees, with a bit of fog and low clouds. Our guide launches the zodiacs onto an ice floe, jumps out and invites us to join him. Truly surreal. We are standing in the arctic ocean, on an ice flow smaller than our living room. But it is at least 2 feet thick so there is no chance of it cracking! Both of us agree that this would have to rate as one of the highlights of our lives.
There are more photos below